Author A. (Alec) S. Patric

Alec Patric spoke at Frankston Library this week as part of the Australian Library Week events. And despite the small number of people in the audience, it was a lovely event. Maybe because of the small audience it was more of a conversation rather than a presentation. Alec Patric

Alec appears as a dedicated and humble writer who loves his craft. Growing up in the then barren western suburbs of Melbourne he sought enrichment through poetry. Becoming a ‘writer’ was a foreign concept in that era in that community. Working on weekends in his dad’s engineering factory he found beauty in words.

The conversation at the library meandered lyrically, involving us all, we spoke of poetry, literary fiction, genre fiction, winning awards, work in the local book shop, Black Rock White City, his soon-to-be-released collection of short stories The Butcherbird Stories, immigration, book clubs, libraries, the writing life, and more.

When Alec observed that fiction novels are the zeitgeist of society, I understood completely. This is a notion I have explored on occasion, my thoughts flailing about trying to reason why fiction is important. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas is a perfect example of a story that portrays a particular, time, place and culture: ‘the spirit of the times’.

The conversation about literary fiction brought the novel Eucalyptus by Murray Bail to mind. A book I love and is hard to place into a rigid genre. Alec was aiming for a literary page-turner with his book Black Rock White City and by receiving the Miles Franklin Award in 2016 for this novel, he obviously succeeded.

He mentioned the Long List for this year’s Miles Franklin Award and this has prompted me to have a look at those books. The one that appeals at first glance is From the Wreck by Jane Rawson.

Women leading change

The Wake Up Project provided an event at the Melbourne Convention Centre: Women Leading Change that I was fortunate to attend with a friend.

We joined 500 women who listened to some remarkable and inspiring women talk about change. Seane Corn; Janine Shepherd; Tara Moss; Lucy Perry; Clare Bowditch; and Tami Simon were each introduced by Jo Wagstaff.

Seane Corn is a yoga teacher and activist who created the movement, Off the Mat and Into the World. She began the day talking about “Beauty, Bravery, & Living Your Truth”. She shared her personal story explaining how that has led her to where she is today. Advising us all to accept our “shadow” as well as our “light”, she explained that only then could we be truly authentic with others and ourselves.

Our wounds become our wisdom.” ~ Seane Corn

Janine Shepherd followed to talk about “The Power of Acceptance”. She is living proof of this as someone who was hit by a truck while cycling in the Blue Mountains, almost dying, being told she would never walk again or have children; and yet there she stood and walked unaided, vibrant, mother of three adult children, and a commercial pilot. You can hear her story in her TED Talk.

“Life is not about having it all. Life is about loving it all.” ~ Janine Shepherd

The gorgeous Tara Moss followed to talk “On Courage, Self-Care, and Why Women’s Voices Matter”. She says that first you must prioritise your own health before you are in a position to help others. She provided some interesting statistics to illustrate how women’s voices are not represented in government, business and organisations. Important decision making about women’s issues such as abortion, domestic violence, child care, etc are being discussed and decided by male voices, as they make up the significant majority of representatives present at the discussion tables.

Lucy Perry talked amusingly about “Fearless Living: How Fun, Forgiveness, and Fearlessness Can Change the World.” She says that ordinary women can do extraordinary things and she is proof of this through her work alongside Australian obstetrician Dr Catherine Hamlin as the former CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia in Australia.

Clare Bowditch entertained us after lunch with “Oh F**k, I Don’t Know What To Call This Talk”. She had 500 women singing in two-part harmony. And she talked about how we are not perfect, all of us are works-in-progress, and how we must “learn to sit in the uncomfortable now.” She says her most commonly asked question is “Why did Patrick have to die?

Tami Simon is the founder of Sounds True and she talked next about “Being True: Showing Up Fully in Your Work, Life and Love.” Her main principles are: individuality, being true, and heeding the call.

Her findings from her interviews “Insights At The Edge” are these:

  • The spiritual journey is a journey of subtraction. What can I let go of?
  • The disciplines of spiritual life are about the shedding process not self-improvement.
  • There is no end to the spiritual journey.
  • Every teacher is partial.
  • There is no escaping loss and sorrow.
  • Everything depends on how much you trust.
  • The most important thing is to know what the most important thing is to you. “Can I give myself to the love and connectedness of my life?

Seane Corn closed the day challenging us to find our voice and speak out. “Start Where You Are: It’s Time to Rise”. She says to celebrate an authentic human experience, be able to say ‘sorry’, self-care, own your ‘shadow’, and don’t be an arsehole.

Thank you to The Wake Up Project for organising this day. And thank you to Alana for inviting me to spend this special day with you, and being inspired by these amazing women.

Facing the world

How’s your face? How much do you take your face for granted? Are you beautiful; plain; ugly; possess inner beauty that radiates out; all of the above?

It’s interesting how much we take appearances for granted and make superficial judgements based on our face and the faces of everyone else we meet.

Consider the female US politician who was very attractive and had a high profile job where her face was seen often by many and then had her face destroyed by some crazy gunman. How did she cope with that? What an awful thing to have to endure and yet she has courageously moved forward, recently having some amazing facial reconstruction. (This was in the news recently and yet I can’t seem to find any information online about this. I haven’t done extensive searching at this point though.)

Consider women of Muslim faith that wear the hijab. Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it must be like to cover your face to the world. What does this do to your sense of identity, your confidence, your ability to relate to others in the “modern” world?

And then consider popular culture that has enormous emphasis on “look”? It reeks of “lookism”. The ostracism that occurs every day because you might not have the “right” look is accepted by large portions of our society. The main culprits of this in my opinion are fashion, celebrity, and the media.

How must the current Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, feel being tormented every single day for her red hair? She has amazing red hair (colour enhanced perhaps) and striking fair skin and yet she is ridiculed for those unique characteristics, while trying to do her job conscientiously, sensibly and with maturity. Where is the maturity of those who ridicule her like they are still in the schoolyard?

As a typical Aussie who loves the outdoors and spent years playing outside in the sun during my child and teenage years – playing tennis without a hat, water-skiing all summer, and more, the fair freckled skin I inherited from my English and Scottish heritage, is now suffering from sun damage. I wonder how much the hole in the ozone layer contributed to this. Perhaps this problem being experienced now by many of a certain age and demographic won’t be seen in such epidemic proportions in future years because the hole in the ozone layer has decreased in size – for now.

Recently I had the Efudex treatmenton my face to try and kill the potential SCC cells that are underneath my skin. This condition is named Bowen’s Disease. I have had SCC’s cut out in recent years and so this treatment will hopefully reduce the occurrence of the SCC’s developing.

That’s all well and good in a practical medical sense, but it was interesting to experience the profound shift when presenting this awful face to the world. Our face is our window. Whilst we might be able to cover other imperfections or problems elsewhere, short of wearing a hajib, our face is our communication interface. Apart from the discomfort I felt from the treatment and the effects, I didn’t see my own face whilst moving about at work and in town. But I could see the faces of others as they looked at me. Often I would explain with some degree of embarrassment. Around town I would lower my face, the peak of the cap shielding me. But how many times can you do that in a day? I couldn’t hide away at home for 6 weeks. I had to go to work. I wasn’t sick after-all and I had work to do.

Having never been considered a beauty by myself or anyone else, the impact is perhaps not felt as keenly by my ego as that of someone who might have traded on their beauty for most of their life. But it certainly makes you very aware of how much unconscious emphasis we place on people’s looks.

Think about some well-known people who have astonishing faces and yet would not be considered “beautiful”. I love Einstein’s face or is it his brain I admire? Think about people you know whose spirit and soul shine and you don’t even think twice about how they might look. Think about those funny looking Tibetan Monkswho smile and smile and smile.

I am still healing from my treatment and enjoying a day at home. I can’t blame others from being sick of the sight of me. I am so sick of my own face right now. I can only hope the treatment works. But my thoughts go to others who have far worse to endure than I, people who are judged harshly on their nature-given looks, who try to change their looks through damaging and unnecessary plastic surgery, who suffer from rascism, feminism, ageism, lookism.

Through meditation I endeavour to heal my body and soul, and engage my spirit, so that I might be freed from the tyranny of “lookism” and relate to all people as one soul to another, connected in our humanness as Earthlings. I know how lame that sounds but I will try anyway. Will you?

I am listening to Rrakala by Gurrumul, Tabula Rasa by Arvo Part, and reading NOVA magazine, Australian Country Style magazine, vegan recipe books, and re-reading The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra.

What is social networking

I recently gave a talk about social networking. It was at the public library where I work. We offered a free information session to the locals residents. The presentation was to inform people in the community about the social networking trend. The intended audience were those people who don’t know what it is all about, and are curious to know more.

We advertised the event well through local media. There was interest prior to the event. I had prepared a worthwhile presentation and had practice runs with library staff and family. I had a back-up plan in case of IT glitches. I knew the material. I had no bullet points and had put together a relevant and interesting presentation I thought.

I began with a video The Machine is Us/Using us by Professor Michael Wesch. I had asked for his permission trying to honour copyright and do the “right” thing. I explained the difference between Web 1.0 (the static web) and Web 2.0 (the interactive web). I gave a quick glimpse of the huge number of Web 2.0 websites online then went on to talk about the more popular ones: Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, LibraryThing, and blogging with RSS.

Of course, like any self-respecting librarian, I spoke about security, privacy, copyright, and phishing scams.

I finished my talk with a story about Gary Vaynerchuck and how he has mastered the online social networking tools making them work for him in his work as a wine merchant and now an author of Crush It and perhaps a motivational speaker. This description highlighted how the social networking tools work together: we switch seamlessly from one to the other.

So what went wrong? I had only two people in the audience. Two older people seemingly from the same demographic, but one was knowledgeable and a skilled user of these technologies while the other was still reluctant to dive in. They appeared to be interested and focused during my talk. We had a discussion afterwards that was positive and engaging.

It was a cold rainy evening. It is tuna fishing season. This community seems to be active, involved, and maybe busy enough. Maybe they all know about social networking already and don’t need to hear anything else. Somehow we missed the mark with this. This community here is very much oriented to the outdoors. Maybe that is the reason. They don’t need to go online to network socially because the life here is so present in the real world – something I value and appreciate immensely.

I must confess that I am over Facebook myself. This medium manages to have an unsettling ability to make me feel disconnected. It is not authentic. It robs me of the ability to use my bull-shit detectors to capacity. Something feels not quite right to me. Comments are misinterpreted. Harsh judgements are made by total strangers. It is unkind and shallow. We miss out on the essential communication messages read from body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and more. Our written messages lack these. Most of us lack the mastery that the wordsmiths have in illustrating our points with precision and correct grammar. Personally I feel that unless I actually know the person who I am communicating with, then any attempt at “connecting” is a pathetic waste of time; and reeks of desperation. I don’t need it. My life is full enough without this added emotional discord.

I like reading the blogs people write because the longer discourse allows a far better insight into the person and their ideas. And I can pick and choose the ones that are of real interest to me. It is an expansive learning experience, by contrast to Facebook that has a reductionist and limiting social experience. In my talk I tried to explain the benefit of using an RSS reader like Google Reader as the convenient place to gather the blogs that you like to read – but this may have gone over their heads. Not everyone understands the powerful element of this aspect of the Web 2.0 world. And I guess not everyone is interested.

I don’t mind admitting my apparent failure here. I don’t pretend to be a motivational speaker and nor do I aspire to be one. I also feel no need to hide behind a mask of pretence by not confessing the reality of the situation. I am confident that the material was sound and my message clear. I think the audience is there but I can’t begin to guess why they stayed away in droves. I don’t take it personally. It remains a mystery.


Do you speak BureacraSpeak? Sad to say I am learning this unique language. It is tight, legalistic, compartmentalised, and full of jargon. I have had my fill of strategic plans, policies, procedures, guidelines, standards and proposals. It is a barren and arid landscape with no soul. I am amazed that anything gets accomplished at all in this environment.

Oh to return to literature that is creative, expansive, poetic, and inspirational. The reality bending ideas of Richard Bach. The colourful, detailed illustrations of beauty and lifestyle by Frances Mayes. Tales and photos from France and Italy. Stories about music, art, language and culture. Intelligent and thought provoking writing that fills your soul with possibilities. Words that celebrate the reality and beauty of life. And words that teach us how be happy.

Who would have thought that in order to maintain a library of words that fill these common and shared  literary needs, it must be done using the structure of words that are dry, meaningless and overwhelming in  their weight, seriousness and number?