The World According to Renee

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What I Learned When A Client Fired Me

Deflated smiley balloon

Image credit: Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash

A couple of weeks ago, a client told me my services were no longer required.


That was certainly a dampener to my day. It’s not the first time, and won’t be the last. Here are the top 5 things I learned about being fired from a client.

1. It’s not personal

Well… sometimes it is. Miscommunication, personality clash, the client is just a jerk. This time, it was none of those things. I was hired to edit this guy’s work to get it ready for publication. I was also building a website (something I don’t usually offer) and basically get his stuff out in the big wide world. He found a wealthy friend willing to skip the middle-man (me) and get his stuff expedited to publication. In other words, instead of paying me to do it, his friend will pay for him to get it done. Ouch.

2. When one door closes…

As a freelancer, I was relying on this money. That’s the part I am most ticked off about. However, I have since gained two more clients to replace the one I lost.

3. It’s not a reflection of your work

It’s just not. The first client who fired me refused to pay when I presented her with the work I’d done. I have all the briefing notes. I know what I told her (repeatedly). She claims it was not what she asked for. If I wasn’t a newbie, I would have sued for the outstanding charges. Instead, I felt deflated. I blamed myself. I thought I was not cut out for this work. I gave it away. I allowed this client to crush my confidence. Sometimes, I remember that incident and I still feel like I can’t do this.

I did good work. I delivered what I promised. I am proud of that work.

4. You (probably) didn’t need them anyway

This is possibly the most important thing I learned. This client was intense. He was enthusiastic. What he wanted was out of his budget. Work was slow, partly because of his budget and partly because I only had limited time to work on his projects. The day after he emailed me, I returned his works. I didn’t want that energy in my house any longer than necessary. While I miss the money, I don’t miss the client.

5. It’s not the end of the world

I got up the next morning. I took my kid swimming. I ate lunch. I made dinner. I went to sleep.

But I was angry, hurt, annoyed. I love doing work. Obviously the money is a good thing too. I questioned everything. Why am I doing this? Why did I fail? Why can’t I catch a break? For the answers to those questions, see points 1-4.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do.

February 4, 2020 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of Beta Reading

Manuscript with notes on it

A couple of months ago, I was happy enough with my manuscript to send it to a few beta readers to see what they thought. Feedback has started coming through, and I am super happy with all of it.

What is a Beta Reader?

I first heard the term about 4 years ago when a friend asked for beta readers to read her manuscript. She put forth a questionnaire, asking potential readers why they wanted to read and why they thought they’d be a good beta reader. Apparently my answer of “I’m curious to see what you’ve written, and I love to correct mistakes” disqualified me. Who knew??

A beta reader is someone who reads a draft of a manuscript and picks up mistakes. Not only spelling/grammar, but continuity, anachronisms, plot holes and character flaws. They’re the ones who say, ‘in chapter 2 she’s got blue eyes, but brown eyes in chapter 14’ and ‘that seems out of character for that person’, as well as ‘you wrote kilometres before that unit was adopted’.

Who are beta readers?

For most authors, particularly first time and/or indie authors, family and friends are the first call. I chose my mum, plus four friends who said they were interested. My mum is great with spelling. My other four friends are fervent readers from all genres. They know a great book when they read one. They know how a novel is supposed to flow, they will pick up mistakes. But more importantly, they will be honest about it.

Duties of a beta reader

My instructions were clear: I am looking for people to read my work-in-progress (WIP) and tell me how I can improve.

Duties of a beta reader

Incorporating Changes to Your Manuscript

Of course, once you have the feedback, it’s up to you how you use it. They might all have different opinions on particular chapters/scenes/characters etc. As the author, you have to wade through each reader’s particular feedback and work out what’s best for the story. Not necessarily what YOU want, but how it best serves the story. Because that’s the whole point: to create a work people will want to read.

Last week, one of my beta readers (let’s call her Melanie), sent me a printed copy of my novel with notes and markings all over it. I was thrilled! She included a summary of comments, and finished with “I love the book, it’s up there with the best of properly published novels that I’ve read”. It’s all I could ever ask for. Melanie also included a note saying, “I hope we’re still friends after you’ve read this…”

It’s Not Personal

Perhaps the single most important thing to remember is: any feedback you receive from anyone, whether a beta reader, editor, publishing house or the general public is that it is not personal. Even traditionally published books found in libraries and bookstores have mistakes. Some are terribly written, with little plot and superficial characters. Some books have gone through several editors and still are full of spelling mistakes. Some just don’t resonate with readers. Not everyone is going to like what you’ve written. And that is absolutely fine.

Take the feedback from your early readers the way it is intended: with love. You’ve asked them how you can make your work better, this is how. It is not a personal reflection on your personal character, your intelligence, or writing ability. They can only read what you wrote, not the book you intended.

January 20, 2020 Posted by | Writing Journey | , , , | Leave a comment

Another One Bites the Dust: How yet another draft strengthens writing

Write without fear, edit without mercy

Image credit: Hannah Grace, Unsplash

I’ve finished yet another draft of my novel. Is a book ever really finished???

I’ve been unhappy with the last few chapters. In my previous post, I wrote about how the climax is supposed to come before the denouement, and mine didn’t. I removed an entire chapter between climax and end, moved most of the epilogue to an earlier chapter, and fixed up a few bits and pieces. Most importantly though, my original last line is no longer my last line. It just didn’t make sense anymore.

There’s an artist and author whom I shall not name, because I don’t want to be seen as criticising her. She’s written several children’s books; I was gifted two of them.

In her Author’s Note, she acknowledges that she’s never read a book. How one gets through life never reading a book, I don’t know. Surely she read books at school? In any case, she is not a reader. But she is a writer.

One of the problems with self-publishing is that anyone can publish any old thing they write. It doesn’t have to be a good story. It doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, or have good spelling. It just needs to be written. This person has self-published and although she credits an editor, I’m pretty sure that the editor just chose nice words with good spelling. The story itself is fine, but there is a lot that can be edited out. It just doesn’t need to be there.

As a reader of traditionally-published books, one gets a sense of how stories are written. There are nuances of genres and stories and plots and narratives which one picks up on, usually translating them without conscious thought into their own work. Sometimes it is quite obvious where my influences are, sometimes it is not. During the writing of The Magpie’s Call (my novel, btw), I read dozens of books. The influence isn’t always noticeable. Not to me, anyway. A few times, a lyric to a song snuck its way in but not in a way that infringes copyright. (If anyone can pick a lyric, go for it!)

Not being a reader would also influence how you write. Not only the flow of a narrative, but scenes that don’t need to be there. It’s fine to play with story, heck, trash it as much as you want! But if you want people to read it, you have to stick with certain conventions.

For example, a romance novel has the convention that boy meets girl, there’s something that breaks them up, they get back together and live happily ever after. That’s the formula readers expect when they pick up a Mills & Boon. In fact, all novels follow the hero/ine, an antagonist, a crisis, a solution. No matter the genre, all novels will follow that narrative flow.

Many children’s classics such as Pollyanna and What Katy Did are a bit looser with their narrative; they have episodic chapters which contribute to the whole story rather than the chapters forwarding the plot. Early in the book, Katy’s adventures take one chapter, whereas it follows a more linear narrative once she falls off the swing and injures her back. Still, at the end, Katy is a different person than she was at the beginning. And that, dear readers, is the ultimate goal of every novel: the characters have to have changed.

Stories matter. Everything else can be fixed.

January 17, 2020 Posted by | Writing Journey | , , , , , | Leave a comment

End-of-Year Roundup

*blows dust off blog*

Howdy, readers! I apologise for not updating this blog regularly. I’ve been concentrating on writing my novel. It’s time and energy consuming.

So here we are at the end of 2019. Technically the end of the decade is end of 2020… just sayin’. However, this year has been a big one for me and I’d like a few minutes to give myself a pat on the back for it.

Let’s start with writing. I began writing a novel around April 2018. It’s now mostly completed. As in, I’m happy with the general storyline and how it all comes together. I am unhappy with little bits and pieces. The climax happens too early (heh) so that chapter needs to be moved further back to just before the denouement. I still aim to publish around March 2020.

Writing this novel has been a journey. What began as a love letter to my ancestors became a powerful narrative of feminism in colonial Australia. My ancestors do make appearances in the novel, but they are supporting characters. In my own way, they still carry the love-letter vibe. What happens to protagonist Aurelia is in no way a reflection of my feelings toward the area; it’s simply a plot point to move her journey along. But more about that before the release.

I can only write when my daughter is in preschool, limiting it to three days per week. Anyone with a feisty four year old will know there’s just no way to write when they’re on the loose! Thus, the process has been slow. And, of course, I am the Queen of Procrastination so there’s always something else to be done. Loads of washing don’t just do themselves… I have found the editing process tedious, but the entire second half needed to be rewritten so I found joy in doing that. The novel is currently with beta readers, so their notes will be incorporated into my work in the new year.

Is a novel ever really finished??

Next year, I will also be giving a talk at the local library. The talk is titled Marketing for Indie Authors and I will be discussing ways to find your target audience, creating social media campaigns and engaging with your customers. So, I’ve also been working on that, meaning I talk to myself quite a lot to sound out ideas and let my brain work out things on its own. I like the process. Perhaps I will do more library talks in the future!

On a personal note, my daughter will start school next year. About a month from now, actually. It’s an exciting time. I’m excited for her to start school because I know she will love it. She loves learning. Now that Christmas is over, my thoughts are turning to the millions of things I need to do to ready her for school. It’s vastly different to when I was at school… but that was a while ago…

What happens when she goes to school? I assume I’ll get a “real” job. I don’t expect to become a bestselling indie author, not overnight. Ha! I have plans for two sequels, so it’s a matter of finding the time and creative energy if and when I do work. I need to complete The Magpie’s Call first!

I feel good about 2020. I will definitely require new glasses as my lovely puppy Jellybean ate my last pair a week ago. Even just typing this, I can feel my eyes straining. I can see perfectly well without glasses, but I do end up with a headache when not wearing them. Thanks a lot, Jellybean.

I’m excited that my novel will finally be released. I’m excited to write sequels. I’m happy to present a talk (maybe, just maybe, I can start a business doing social media campaigns for technologically inept people?). I’m super duper excited at the process of organising large scale events for 2021 (I’m not actually a major part, just doing my own small thing with a LOT of enthusiasm!) and I’m optimistic about where I will be this time next year.

Thank you, dear readers, for following my process and progress this year. It means a lot to me that there are people reading my words. Maybe I inspire you, maybe I’m a distraction, maybe you’re living vicariously through me, or maybe you just like what I’m doing. Thank you. May your 2020 be blessed and prosperous for you.

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections, Writing Journey | , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Update

Lady typing on laptop

Image by Kaitlyn Baker, Unsplash

Regular readers probably know that I am writing a novel. It’s historical fiction set in Camden NSW as my ancestors worked there when they first arrived in Australia from England. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in my family other than my family, so I created a fictional family and have done horrible things to them.

Some Background

I started this project in April 2018. An idea had been swirling around my head for some time but I lacked confidence. I saw Kali Napier speaking at my local library and she inspired me to actually write. So I did. As it happened, at the event I was sitting next to a lovely lady who invited me to join the writers’ group. So I did. I found my tribe: they are encouraging and supporting and I owe them a lot.

I finished my first draft early in 2019. I knew it was bad, but unsure of how to fix it. I emailed it to someone from the writers’ group who had offered his services as a beta reader. He gave me some ideas and a book to read in order to improve my manuscript.

Afterwards, I left it for several weeks as I thought about what he’d said. One thing in particular stuck in my brain: he said it was a fragment of a bigger story. At the time, I disagreed, thinking his suggestion of a subplot involving the two girls becoming dressmakers was far-fetched; they aren’t even teenagers yet. But the idea kept sticking in my mind and it is now being written into the novel.

Where am I now?

Happily writing the second draft. I’ve deleted a whole chapter, rewritten others, moved paragraphs around and introduced two subplots to support the main narrative. I have read several books about writing. I’ve taken notes and I refer to them constantly. My writing has definitely improved.

I wrote in a previous post that someone I know has given me permission to use her sister’s story in my novel. I am honoured. It’s a heartbreaking story but parallels the protagonist’s own narrative, and provides a conclusion which I have struggled with in several previous edits of the final chapter.

I was hoping to self-publish around November/December of this year, but I doubt that will happen. Life gets in the way however I am spending a lot more time and effort writing. I love writing, except my self-doubt gets in the way. Lately I have been finding myself ‘in the zone’ more often than not which certainly helps the process! Editing isn’t that much fun, but writing in new scenes and new subplots certainly is!

One More Thing…

Shoutout to everyone who has so far made this project possible. There will be a comprehensive list in my novel, of course, but I just want to say a few words here as well.

First, to you guys who read this blog. Every time you like a post, I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. I feel less alone. I feel validated as a writer.

I’d also like to thank my writing group. We’re a diverse bunch of writers and I love that I see value in everyone no matter their style of writing.

Thank you to my mentors, who probably don’t even know the value in what they’ve given me. James Scott Bell, whose book Just Write was the kick in the butt that I wanted and needed. Sit in front of that keyboard and just write. Write like you can’t fail. If nothing else, I live by those words. KM Weiland on Twitter. Her Writing Question of the Day always gets me thinking. Her daily writing tips end up collated in a notebook. I’m yet to read one of her how-to-write books but they are on my Kindle (hey, it’s a start!).

Lastly but not leastly, my family. Not only the ones who share the house with me but my aunts, uncles, cousins, mum, dad and sister. You get to listen to my nuggets of research that I uncover even though 99% of it won’t be used in this novel. To the ones whom I live with, thanks for leaving me alone when inspiration strikes. Thanks for cooking dinner when my fingers itch to type right now! Most of all, thanks for believing in me.

August 23, 2019 Posted by | Writing Journey | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choosing Stories

Floral pattern

Pattern copyright Folksy Floral, The Gifted Stationery Co, England.

Not long ago, I wrote about how authors are inspired, where ideas come from. Today’s post is about choosing how those inspirations are used.

I am a member of an online community, and have been for over a decade now. It’s a small community. Many of us have met each other in real life. A couple of members have died, leaving us with real grief.

One member, let’s call her Willow, had an older sister who died when Willow was about a year old. She doesn’t have any memories of her sister, only photos and what her parents have told her. Willow’s sister died of leukaemia; she was only three.

Recently, Willow’s parents have gone into care so Willow and her siblings were tasked with sorting through the house. Willow found some items belonging to her deceased sister and told the story on this online community.

As a writer, I found her tale interesting and asked if I could use it in a future story. Willow granted permission. A few days later, I received a letter in the mail; a timeline outlining her sister’s illness and death.

I am humbled to be caretaker of her sister’s story. Although I didn’t know how or when I would use it, the card and note have been sitting in my writing folder.

This morning, I received sad news. A friend of a friend’s daughter passed away from paediatric cancer. I’ve been following this child’s story on Facebook despite not knowing her personally. I’ve followed good news, hopeful news, bad news and sad news. I’ve hoped and prayed that this little girl, and every other child afflicted with cancer, will be healed.

Perhaps it is this that has inspired me to use Willow’s sister’s story in my current Work In Progress (WIP).

In the original draft, a character named Annie lost her child during birth. To honour Willow’s sister and the young girl who passed away late last night, Annie will now lose her daughter to paediatric cancer.

Why would I do this?

The simple answer is: writers do horrible things to their characters. This particular instance means I can tie up a loose end, give my story a conclusion.

The complex answer is: Cancer sucks. Cancer is a horrible, terrible, motherfucking awful disease that robs people of their life. It steals children from their families. It punishes good people. Cancer does not discriminate. We are still battling cancer in children. It is suckingly unfair for anyone to suffer, let alone children.

To honour those who have lost children to cancer, I want to acknowledge them in my novel. Nothing replaces a lost child. Nothing I, nor anyone else, can say will lessen the grief felt by childless parents. Cancer is a scourge, and by creating a storyline in my novel that addresses the loss of a child, I hope I am raising awareness and honouring those whom we’ve lost.

August 2, 2019 Posted by | Writing Journey | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What 12 Angry Men can teach us

12 Angry Men, 1957 film

Recently, I read Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life by James Scott Bell.

In a chapter about character conflict, he mentioned the film 12 Angry Men, a 1957 movie which takes place almost entirely within the confined space of a jury room. Twelve male jurors are debating a verdict which will see the accused face the electric chair if they decide he’s guilty.

What starts as a simple open-and-shut case ends with these twelve men reassessing everything they thought they knew.

What’s important to a writer about this film is that we’re presented with twelve distinct personalities, each with their own back stories, biases, thoughts and feelings.

In a nutshell, 12 Angry Men is a masterpiece of storytelling, characterisation and conflict.

We begin with eleven of the twelve jurors believing the accused, an 18 year old kid, is guilty of murdering his father. Only one of the twelve think he’s not guilty. Not innocent, but he’s not guilty. It’s a difficult concept, which is beautifully explained throughout the film.

Screenwriter Reginald Rose (who also wrote the play) reveals one plot point at a time in a way that is so seamless, the viewer can’t even see it coming. Of course, the added beauty of this process is that the viewer, presented with the evidence that the jurors are discussing, also see the case as an obvious guilty verdict. Only Juror 8’s different POV creates the initial conflict.

And here, dear writers, is what makes a story interesting: conflict. No one wants to read about Mr and Mrs Smith watching TV with a dog on their lap and sipping their lattes. No. You want to read about Mrs Jones, who threw a teacup at the wall when she found out Mr Jones cheated on her with Ms Winter, Mrs Jones’ best friend.

Conflict is created when two (or more) characters bring their inherent biases into play. Every character has a background, something that they’ve learned that makes them tick. Smash characters into a scene together, and those biases should clash.

(Of course, a character can have conflict within themselves. Think Hamlet, Macbeth, Juliet etc.)

But back to those twelve angry jurors. As they argue among themselves, they begin to reach agreement, which creates even more conflict with the jurors who haven’t yet changed their verdicts. As the film comes to a close, all twelve jurors finally agree on one verdict. One juror reveals his heartbreak in one of the final scenes, which explains his firm stance held throughout the film.

If you’re a writer (or just like really good movies), definitely check out 12 Angry Men. If you’re in Australia, it’s currently streaming on Stan. Also available iTunes and presumably anywhere else you get your movies.

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Writing Journey | , , , | Leave a comment

Where do ideas come from?


Image credit: Nikhil Mitra, Unsplash

At some point, every writer will lack inspiration. It’s known as writers’ block. It can be crippling, if you let it. The solution is: just keep writing.

But where does inspiration come from?

As a writer, I train my mind to look for possibilities. A few years ago, I attended a writers’ retreat on Stradbroke Island as part of NaNoWriMo with the Brisbane crew. It ran for a weekend near the end of November. On the Saturday night, we were woken by a loud thumping noise, which grew louder by the second. Looking out the windows, we saw a helicopter’s searchlights approaching the resort. About half of us ran outside to see what was happening. The helicopter landed in a park across the road. We watched as paramedics loaded a person onboard.

“I wonder what happened,” said a fellow writer.

“We’re writers! We can invent any reason we want,” I replied.

Alien attack. Shark attack. Heart attack. Mugging. Mistaken identity. Tripped over a log and broke a leg. Hoax. Asthma. Imminent baby arrival.

… You can probably think of another hundred reasons why this person had to be rescued from an island and flown to hospital. (We did actually look it up on various news sites the next day, but couldn’t find anything about it.).

In Fiona McIntosh’s How To Write Your Blockbuster, she writes a simple exercise designed to get your brain ticking with ideas.

Write a negative emotion in the middle of a blank page. Create a mind map of associated words and/or phrases. For example, Fear. Huntsman Spiders, rejection, illness, loss of family member, bills, no food, no money, vet costs, medical costs.

Choose one of those words or phrases, for example: rejection.

Who is experiencing rejection?
Why are they feeling rejected?
When are they experiencing rejection?
Where are they feeling rejected?
What is causing it?
What can they do about it?
What might come next?

Take it a step further. Ask, “What if…?”

What if the rejected woman finds the partner of her dreams?
What if the rejected man kills his children?
What if the rejected child becomes a serial killer?

Asking “What if?” Is the single most effective question a writer can ask.

What if the helicopter crashed on the way to the hospital?
What if the person died en route?
What if the helicopter picked up the wrong passenger?
What if the passenger was faking illness, was actually a spy, taking out the pilot and flying the ‘copter to a secret intelligence base in South Brisbane?

As a writer, start asking this question. The beauty of this question is that it can literally be applied to everything that happens in your day.

You’re walking your dog.
What if your dog is a reincarnation of your childhood dog?
What if that tree your dog sniffed suddenly burst into flames?
What if your dog ran off and found a new home with the Chinese people at the end of the street?
What if you were the only person who could see your dog?

Go on. Try it. Try it every day for a week and see what your mind can come up with!

July 11, 2019 Posted by | Writing Journey | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Write Your Truth

Woman holding coins

Image credit: Kat Yukawa, Unsplash

I’m currently reading a book called Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life, by James Scott Bell. As a writer, it is important for me to study the craft in order to become a better writer. After all, you’d expect a doctor to continue their studies in order to become a better doctor, right?

Somewhere buried in chapter 6 is a subheading: Write Your Truth. Bell writes about actor Lee Marvin, who acted with his truth to the point where he told famed acting coach Lee Strasberg to sod off because Strasberg told Marvin he wasn’t “dying” correctly. Marvin, who had actually seen people dying in war, told Strasberg that men often didn’t feel any pain at all as they died. When faced with making a TV show for the money, Marvin said he wasn’t interested in pushing products, he was interested in pushing Lee Marvin.

About ten years ago, I immersed myself in a copywriting course taught by one of Australia’s most successful copywriters. Copywriting is an art form which can pay quite well indeed; all you need to do is write. I enjoyed the course and the coach was happy with my work. She often threw jobs my way because she knew what I’d sacrificed in order to take this course.

One job I was asked to do involved writing web copy for a health drink. The client gave me all the details in the brief. I did my own research, and I came to the conclusion that the drink was more about marketing the company than improving one’s health. Still, a job is a job and I sat down to write.

There was a problem: I couldn’t write. Sure, I had words on the screen, but they were unconvincing. No one was going to believe it. I deleted everything and started again. And again. And again.

Everything I’d read about this drink was dancing in my brain. If I didn’t believe the product, how was I going to convince other people?

Therein lies: Write Your Truth. Am I writing for writing, or for the money?

Most people want to do both something they love and get paid for it. But, we live in a material world and bills need to be paid. There’s a fine line between writing for one’s own pleasure and writing to be read. (It’s the readers who pay for your stuff, remember.)

At the moment I am treading that line. I am publishing my own short stories on a subscription website, I’ve written a novel that I assume only my friends and family will read, and I am in the process of applying for a writing gig for an online magazine. That last job will (hopefully) pay the bills. The novel is because I want to write, and the subscription website is a mixture of both.

I can’t write convincingly if I don’t believe in it. This is one of my truths. I have to write for myself first and foremost. However, my writing is enjoyed by others, and one day it may pay the bills too.

The image I chose for this blog post is really what this struggle is about: can I write to create change in readers, or can I write to make money? Do I hold integrity in my writing or cast integrity to hell and write for money?

I choose integrity.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Copywriting, Writing Journey | , , , | Leave a comment

When Someone You Hate, Dies


Image credit: Fernanda Marin, Unsplash


Someone I don’t like is terminal. I don’t know how long this person has left, he may already be gone. It’s odd when someone you hate dies. It’s like you’re suddenly supposed to forgive, forget, and like them.

I am part of an online community. I found this community around 15ish years ago. We’re an eccentric bunch but quite tight: we know the ins and outs of each others’ lives, we know each others’ real names, we’re facebook friends, met in real life, and when a member is in trouble, the community is there to help out.

Except this one guy. I’m gonna call him Carl. I have never liked Carl, and the feeling is mutual. He’s been downright nasty to me. He’s called me names, he’s textually abused me, he’s cast aspersions toward me. He whines and complains when I mention certain subjects, like stupid customers. I think he is a total ratbag and I have no time for him at all. We’re at the point where we just ignore one another’s posts and that’s just fine.

Now, he’s dying. He’s been wavering on the edge of ill health for a couple of years now, but this time shit’s getting real and he is terminal. It’s not like I want to stick a pin in a voodoo doll to hasten his demise, more like I’m disappointed when he does post because he’s still here and alert enough to post. Damn, isn’t he gone yet?

Others in the community have rallied. They’ve offered to send him care packages while he’s in hospital. They’ve offered to come visit him. They’ve offered thoughts and prayers.

Needless to say, I have done none of those things.

There’s something about death that makes us more appreciative of people, I think. We may complain about them, but then they’re gone. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

When someone dies, they (almost) become a saint. In Australian Tragic by Jack Marx, he writes about how Aussies didn’t really like Steve Irwin until after his death. Steve was more popular overseas than he was in Australia until relatively soon before his death. He’d appeared on several US talk shows, such as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and had his own show on US TV called The Crocodile Hunter. Back home in Australia, Steve had a history of angering the public.

In 2003, Steve was ‘slightly injured’ while handling a crocodile in Cape York during a research mission. The Daily Telegraph reported it was “a matter of time before Steve Irwin picked the wrong crocodile to annoy” (30 March, 2003).

Just a few days later, the nation’s outrage was directed at the Crocodile Hunter when he dangled then-4-month-old son Robert in front of a crocodile at Australia Zoo. Brisbane’s The Courier Mail screamed a headline claiming Irwin was a “bloody idiot” (3 January, 2004). Within hours, major news outlets all over the world had shown the footage of the child seemingly within the grasp of a huge saltwater croc. Anyone who had any expertise in child welfare, animal rights, psychology were quoted in all media, all over the world. Readers of newspapers filed their letters to editors, decrying Steve’s actions and labelling him everything from a bad parent to an egotistical idiot.

The mood against Steve Irwin simmered into 2005, where his TV special lost to Kath & Kim in the ratings and newspapers were still calling him an idiot (Marx, 2009 p 171). At the start of 2006, Irwin was placed between Britney Spears and Michael Jackson in the Sydney Morning Herald‘s list of “loopy celebrities”. In the August 2006 edition of Australian Women’s Weekly, Steve told the publication that he advised his daughter Bindi to “take off her shoes” before she kicked her brother in the head. The Daily Telegraph printed, “Let’s nominate Steve Irwin for Father of the Year”.

September 2006: Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray in far North Queensland. You know the rest of the story: Australians suddenly loved and mourned the loss of the Aussie larrikin.

Why is it we forget the reasons we didn’t like a person after their death? Am I supposed to see Carl in a new light now that he’s on his deathbed? How do I reconcile the person I know him to be with the person others see him as? And, more importantly, is that necessary?

However Carl is remembered by the online community and his real-life pals, he will always be a nasty, vile human in my mind.


Marx, Jack 2009 ‘Crocodile Tears’, Australian Tragic Hachette Australia pp 162-177

June 10, 2019 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , | Leave a comment