Google Upsets and My Star Wars Encounter

Google upsets me on a regular basis.

Why does Google dismay me?  Make me groan, make me feel deflated? And what’s Star Wars got to do with it?

Give me five minutes and I will tell you why…

Google images can show me anything and anyone from anywhere in the world.  Every famous person I ever knew when I was growing up in the 20th century.  Every one of the legendary, beautiful, talented, celebrated people who shared my life (vicariously) now have their lives electronically, digitally, chronologically recorded for all time—and not unexpectedly they have all grown old.

But it is unexpected to me.

They were my idols, my inspiration and now they are looking like my grandfather or my grandmother. Eek! Am I shallow?

Okay I’m older too, but (discreet cough) less so…

Every single person born on this planet has the prospect of growing old. Sadly, millions don’t make it due to many varied and tragic reasons; one of which the world is currently experiencing.

Ageing is a normal occurrence in life, and while celebrities may try to subvert nature’s course (I am not a fan of surgical enhancement and 82 year-old Jane Fonda is finally quitting) ageing is a dreadful fact we all have to acknowledge.

That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

It doesn’t mean I should stop using Google.

Hang on, there are distinguished vocations which seem to be exempt, the more august their features, the better their kudos. Even authors seem to be allowed a few saggy features. But I digress.

I should not (cannot) ignore it.

What old age means to me is that I will never ever get used to seeing a vibrant, happy, slim, trim, gorgeous male, female, androgynous (term used back then) human being with a fabulous personality, body, voice, career, sink slowly into their old age, creeping ever closer to the eternal departure lounge.

I am callously referring to celebrities of stage and screen, actors, singers, bands, artists, e.g. the upper stratosphere of very public stardom.

With or without their cosmetic surgery I am trying to maintain the love and respect. But those dreaded Before and After shots.  Gosh, these days I wouldn’t even recognise most of them in the supermarket. 

“Hold on,” you shout in an agitated fashion, “don’t be so cruel and superficial! They still have their brains (hopefully) and their photo albums, family, friends and big mansion.  Stop making out they are turning into something akin to Frankenstein’s monster.” 

Relax, dude.  All I am saying is that when I see a wrinkly (another 20th century word) I am looking at the face of my own mortality.  That’s what I will look like eventually.  So will you.  Is it fair?  Of course not.  Ageing can be slowed but will only cease when we do.

The best we ordinary citizens can hope for is an active life, good health care and a reasonably good digestive tract.  After all, I can hide away, I can grow old without someone shoving a camera in my face and asking me about a 1980s indiscretion I can’t even remember.

Hmm… I vaguely recall that night when…

Captain’s Log, Star Date—oops, wrong ship.

In a city far, far away, a young couple finished their late night coffee. They strolled past the refurbished Regent Theatre cinema complex where earlier they had been unlucky not to get tickets to see the star-studded Australian premiere opening of the latest greatest movie, that box office smash, the record breaking 1980 “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” still in-session behind closed doors.

A cool August night in Brisbane City and the main street, Queen Street, was quiet.  Back then it was a through road not a pedestrian mall, no trees in planters, no CCTV, no security patrols, no shops open, just dull street lighting and carparks which closed before midnight.

Apart from her shoulder pads slipping, the young woman had to adjust her big fluffy hairdo every time she was pitched forward when her high heels jammed in the brickwork pavement. As the couple reminisced on some of the amazing sci-fi special effects they had seen in the first Star Wars movie, a doorman (possibly the manager) said “Good night, gentlemen.”

This young couple turned and saw a short man and a tall man (both in tuxedos) walk through a side door of the closed cinema and step onto the pavement in front of them. These two gentlemen looked left and right, assessed the situation and while not exactly puzzled, they obviously expected to see a limousine waiting.

Dazed, the young couple stopped and smiled at them.  The taller of the two men, who looked remarkably like Billy Dee Williams, aka Lando Calrissian, smiled back and said “Is it always this quiet around here?”

Brave little Storm Trooper wandered onto the wrong film set © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

The young woman nodded.

She wanted to say “As soon as the pubs and cinemas close here’s nothing for it but go home.”

The young man said “There are usually some after-parties. You could try Lennons.”

The shorter man, Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, laughed.  “Maybe that’s where we’re headed.”  Seconds later a small dark blue car zoomed down the street and pulled in beside the group.

“That’s our ride,” said Mark, “nice to meet you.”  He opened the back door of the car and hopped inside.  He gave the couple a cheery wave and turned to speak to the driver.

The Lando Calrissian look-alike (possibly bodyguard) shook the young man’s hand and said “Great little town you got here” and he opened the car door and sat in the front seat.  Before he shut the door, he added “Have a good night.”

The couple responded by returning the remark, feeling silly and star-struck.  They stood like statues until the vehicle and its celebrity cargo disappeared into the night.  At that point, they turned to each other and shouted “Yippee!” and proceeded to make happy noises like “Wow” and “Can you believe it?” and “That was Luke Skywalker!”

There was not another living soul, or car or bus, on Queen Street with them. It didn’t even matter that they had no pen or paper for autographs, it didn’t even matter why that famous young star was leaving the venue early, and it certainly didn’t matter that mobile phones and instant video were many years away.

Star Wars Encounter 1980

This couple had met and spoken to Mark Hamill, and a man who looked curiously like rogue Lando Calrissian. What a bonus, right outside the movie theatre where they had yet to see the Brisbane screening of “The Empire Strikes Back”, a George Lucas film franchise destined to spawn an empire of its own.

The young couple, er, mainly the woman, squealed “Wait till the others hear about this!”

This second instalment of the original Star Wars trilogy features Luke, a Tatooine farmboy who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest Jedi the galaxy has ever known, and Lando who is introduced as an old friend of Han Solo. Newspaper archives report the Brisbane premiere was Saturday 2nd August 1980 and other States followed.

My point being?

In September 2021 Mark Hamill will be 70, and in April 2021 Billy Dee Williams will be 84—and that is “Senior” class.

Where did the time go?

I will have to find the phone number for Dr Who’s call box.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


A rare look into the private life of US actor Mark Hamill
https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Culture/rare-glimpse-family-life-star-wars-icon-mark/story?id=54366947

ABC News and Lucasfilm are both part of parent company Disney.

Radio personality Laurel of Radio 4KQ had a similar encounter that night. As a teen, Laurel was inside the Regent Theatre with autograph book at the ready. Her experience was more tangible than mine but nevertheless both memorable moments.

Spreaker Podcast of Laurel meeting Mark Hamill back in 1980.

My Elusive Career as an Aspiring Writer

Attention span of a puppy? Pushed for time? “Publishing is a long game. As they say, you have to be a stayer if you want to be a player. Even if your book is only 500 words!” said Jen Storer, children’s author and chief inspirationalist at Girl & Duck.com when discussing the pitted path to publishing.  I intended writing a three-part posting on my literary travails but here they are in one glorious chunk.

Kids Storytime 02
PROLOGUE After reading countless children’s picture books for Storytime in a public library, it became obvious to me what worked and what didn’t with a live audience. I thought it was about time I tried to write my own children’s book.

WARNING – THIS IS A LONG BLOG POST WHICH RAMBLES OVER EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF MY WRITING LIFE – CAFFEINATED BEVERAGE RECOMMENDED.

 

CHAPTER ONE The Plan. Work up slowly with a picture book maximum of 500 words for age 0-5, step into small chapter books for age 6-8 with 20,000 words, graduate to a decent sized book of 25,000 for teenagers then launch myself into young adult. Well, perhaps not young adult, could get a bit messy in the emotions department. Hopefully, maybe, I could consider penning a series. Something humorous and fun, with a good plot and memorable characters. An attention-grabbing theme, a zany bookcover and before you can say Harry Potter, I’m flying high, riding the wave of published author!

Er, right.  The truth of the matter is that I knew full well I had no experience.  Career shattered before it began?IMG_20170531_184235

In steps the many writer’s workshops and online courses available to the newbie.  Or as they say in the trade “emerging author”.  Plus a local writer’s club SWWQ, State writers centre, Facebook groups and a conference or two.  (List of website links at end of page). Not forgetting the self-help books – anyone who’s ever written a book and had it published with moderate success seems to qualify as an adviser on the subject of literary rules. The do’s and don’ts, the routines, the voice, the need for originality, the best way to grab an editor’s attention, grammar, plot structure, plotter or pantser, show don’t tell, how to sell yourself, and the list goes on.

CHAPTER TWO First up, I enrolled in an expensive online course which certainly got me motivated but not by the moderator or the tutor. The other participants were withdrawn and really didn’t share. And the course notes were a little outdated. Yes, I know “Where The Wild Things Are” is a classic but hundreds of good, if not better, books have been published since then, with far more appeal. And I don’t really like the artwork.

Ah, artwork. You can write the words for a picture book but you can’t have it illustrated by an artist of your choosing. The publisher does that. And we all know we have different ideas when it comes to imagination and imagery. If you write and illustrate your own picture book, it has to be of exceptional standard. I can do pen and pencil drawings but they wouldn’t cut it. I’m much better with basic colour-in stuff. Which doesn’t sell.

Click link Saving

Tree Without Leaves 09

Grandpa’s Tree

Then came the face-to-face classroom workshops which were fun. Lots of buzzing people with buzzing ideas and questions. Isn’t it surprising that when it comes to reading out your own work, people clam up? Not me. I always read out my stuff and one story was later fleshed out into a decent read “Saving Grandpa’s Tree”. However, it hasn’t attracted anyone’s attention yet.

CHAPTER THREE The big thing among creatives is to attend a yearly conference or festival in another State, necessitating a weekend away. I think a conference is meant to be more serious than a festival with serious lectures, serious note-taking and serious editor appraisals.  I have a small green notebook riddled with notes. A festival has all manner of literary people chatting on stage, with microphone feedback, showing wonky PowerPoint slides, supplemented with drinks and nibbles and a lot of networking.

Daily Things Egg Bookmarks Kookaburra (3)
Just like anywhere else, unless you are seen as someone who has “made it” you are not worthy of a business card exchange. And bookmarks, phew, I could wallpaper my room with all the industry bookmarks floating around.

 

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At these displays of verbose literary knowledge (excluding The Duck Pond – see below) I always wear my name badge. Nobody remembers my name and I don’t remember theirs but we compare notes, likes and dislikes and complain about the way the event is organised and the length of the queues. Usually the food tastes as good as it looks.  Of course, the better the quality, the quicker the goodies are consumed. Never cram your mouth because someone will ask you a question, and never spill anything down your front because you will be asked to step up the front to speak.

I’m going to pen a small piece on the Judith Rossell weekend writers retreat I attended at historic Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, Victoria.  Amazing vibe!  We don’t have many older buildings in Brisbane with such history.  I have organised, promoted and hosted author talks and, believe me, not all are created equal.  Will save that story for another time.

CHAPTER FOUR For well over a year, I submitted children’s picture book manuscripts to a myriad of publishers in Australia and overseas and have received only two rejections. I think the silence is worse than those two polite rejection letters. Surely, in this day and age, it wouldn’t take two seconds for the office junior to email a rejection to the poor, desperate writer at the other end.

RequiremeManuscripts.nts Of Submission occasionally want physical copies and I’ve gone the old A4 paper route, Times New Roman (no glitter in the envelope, big no-no) with clean easy-to-read layout and still not heard a word. Does that mean I’m no good or the publishing houses are totally swamped? Harking back to that office junior, who didn’t send me an email, I could get bitter. They are the first readers of unsolicited manuscripts which forces me to cry “What do they know? My literary reading is decades ahead of theirs.” Sadly, they know the trends. A new writer cannot predict trends. Nor can they single-handedly make them.

The scariest thing I’ve done (apart from hosting an avant-garde Shakespeare theatre troupe and judging a YA writing competition) was Literary Speed Dating; five minutes of torture in which you have to sell yourself and your manuscript.  A bell rings and, if you haven’t collapsed, you go to the next editor’s table.  And the next...and the next...A woman in my queue was eight months pregnant and the summer heat was ferocious but she coped better than all of us.  A book contract?  I hope the others were successful.  At least that woman has a baby now.

CHAPTER FIVE After becoming thoroughly disenchanted with the children’s book industry, I started up my own WordPress blog and thought “I’ll just do what I like and if anyone notices, that’s okay” but I didn’t hold my breath. Prepare to be amazed – 409 million people view more than 20.8 billion pages each month on WordPress, and users produce about 77.0 million new posts and 42.7 million new comments each month, an estimation of six new WordPress.com posts every second. Those stats have probably changed while I type, but it’s still a shedload of competition. It takes a lot to shine. Who’s going to read me and my miscellaneous Blogging Image 04ramblings? Recently I had 385 Followers but I culled the spammers and that number dropped back drastically.

I’ve discovered that personal stuff gets the most hits but specialising is not my thing.  Although I blog about many things, I still like the idea of kidlit. Notice that term? I’m getting good with the industry terms. Copy edit, structural edit, narrative arc, protagonist, antagonist … I subscribe to the newsletters of publishers, book stores, State organisations, libraries, writing groups, children’s literary charities and other book-reading bloggers like Paula Bardell-Hedley (see below). So far, I’ve come across a lot of WordPress book reviewers and enjoy their commentary. Personal opinion is a great thing, just not something I always agree with when it comes to books. Honesty compels me to admit that my leisure reading is not nursery rhymes, it’s a good crime novel.

CHAPTER SIX In between life, I volunteer at special events and displays at State Library and offer my free time closer to home in a charity shop bookroom. What an eye opener! Certainly a book for every customer, young or old; and quite a mixture of clientele. The shelves are browsed with all the fervent devotion of a high-end bookstore in the city. Without the price tag. And a few bent bookcovers and rusty pages thrown in. Behind the scenes, the staff are just as interesting. Again, will save that story for another time.

“But what of your picture book career?” Glad you asked. Confession time. Deep down my literary urge begins to lean towards writing for adults BUT I join Creative Kids Tales, an online group for emerging authors which specialises in children’s literature.  By this time I was doubtful that this was my true calling (after all, one can only take so many unsent rejection letters) and was oscillating between adult works and the perfect kids book.  I hung in there.

Truly Tan BooksEach month CKT features a different aspiring writer with a successfully published author. One author captured my imagination, Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.com An Enid Blyton lover, Jen shows an intelligent, vibrant nature, an honest, straight forward approach to writing and I like her children’s books, especially Truly Tan series.  Jen was starting a Facebook group The Duck Pond, inviting kidlit creatives to join, and the rest is magic.

CHAPTER SEVEN I’m pretty much a founding member of The Duck Pond and recently their creatives group Scribbles was added which I also joined. Membership grows weekly, and Jen does weekly Q&Q (questions and quacks) videos on YouTube. Apart from sudden Facebook drop-ins on screen, Jen does one-hour Scribbles Live Rounds and members tune in from around the world. Kidlit help is always at hand and the expertise of members is far-reaching.  The slogan “The rule is there are no rules” is true to its word. Jen says “Do the verk”.  Immersion is the only way and I’ve learned so much about writing books and the book industry generally.

Scribbles Live Round Participant 2018

An author/illustrator, Jen Storer believes is having fun and being messy, “Mess creates clarity”. The Scribblers course is for writers and illustrators and it encourages everyone to work without restrictions.  Quell that inner critic!  There are set Modules with exercises which you do at your own pace but following the easy guidelines so that your words just flow. I’ve experienced writing freely and unfettered and being surprised and pleased with the results. Honestly, with Jen’s prompts, I’ve had so many ideas I could be writing for years. Of course, submitting a manuscript isn’t messy, it has to be refined and polished. Jen is ex-publishing house so she know those ropes.

Now, the cruncher. I adore The Duck Pond group camaraderie and "doing the verk" but I am not a fan of the circus called Facebook. Nor do I participate in other social media like Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc. “Click this, view that, Like page” get lost. In a short space of time I have witnessed two great bloggers over-extend themselves to the detriment of their output.  I like to think I am not spreading myself too thinly!

CHAPTER EIGHT I’m loving my WordPress blog, the layout, the posts, changing photos, the full control I have over my content. Which reminds me, in the past I have submitted reviews and editorials to organisations who have edited or altered my work without my prior consent, which is apparently their prerogative, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I don’t – especially when they muck up a sentence to make it shorter or change paragraphing. So, dear reader, this leaves me in literary limbo.

Star Twinkle Twinkle 01CONGRATULATIONS – IF YOU REACHED THIS POINT WITHOUT SKIPPING BITS.

What is next in my literary journey? Will I shine? Over 18 months, and varying lengths of commitment, I have happily entered writing competitions (two Third Place awards and shortlisted) and completed a magazine writers course, travel writing course, children’s writing, crime writing, romance writers workshop, non-fiction-fest, lampooned the Australian publishing industry, and still don’t know what genre I want to pursue. I know it’s too late to become a ‘proper’ writer, contrary to what dear Jen Storer says in her passionate YouTube video A Slap Down For An Ageist Society I think I have missed the boat. I am passed my publishable prime. It’s no good lamenting the fact that I represent Gustav Freytag’s five-part story structure. I had a younger life to live and it didn’t include lonely, lengthy periods sitting at a keyboard. It does now.

EPILOGUE Sure, I can happily write to my heart’s content but who’s interested? Don’t answer that, please. Suffice to say I will dabble, making my miscellaneous Thoughts Become Words for my own pleasure because I can’t stop writing. Basically, that’s what it all boils down to, in the end we are doing it for ourselves. If someone else likes it, that’s a hefty bonus.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Paula Bardell-Hedley WP Book Blogger IN APPRECIATION – This post is dedicated to WordPress blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley for her great reviews, ideas, encouragement and super organisational skills
https://bookjotter.com/
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/04/02/dhq-dewithon19/
and I get a mention in Winding Up
https://bookjotter.com/2018/04/06/winding-up-the-week-13/


RELEVANT GROUPS AND ORGANISATIONS:
CKT https://www.creativekidstales.com.au/
AWC https://www.writerscentre.com.au/
QWC https://qldwriters.org.au/
BCC https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/facilities-recreation/libraries/opening-hours-locations/brisbane-square-library
CYA http://www.cyaconference.com/
KLV http://www.kidlitvic.com/
ILF https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/
SD https://www.storydogs.org.au/
FF https://www.fantasticfiction.com/
BWF http://uplit.com.au/
G&D https://girlandduck.com/
A&U https://www.allenandunwin.com/being-a-writer/getting-published/advice-from-a-publisher
SWWQ http://womenwritersqld.org.au/

The System

Allora Queensland
Allora Township

Angus shuffled through a pile of bills and sent one fluttering to the floor.  His son Steve stood beside the dining room table, arms folded, watching him.  Every week Angus misplaced an important piece of paperwork.
“Told you it wasn’t far away.”  Angus held up an electricity account.
“You should have a proper filing system, Dad,” Steve said.  “One day the electricity will be cut off and you’ll wonder why you’re in the dark.”
“It’s you who’s in the dark, my lad.”  Angus tapped his nose, an obscure family joke.
Steve gave a brief smile.  “Let me buy you a three-drawer filing cabinet with suspension files and alphabetical tabs.”
“My manila folder is just fine,” said Angus, holding up a battered cream folder with various names crossed out and a succession of dates which finished at 1998.
“You’re damn lucky I haven’t forced you into owning a computer,” said Steve, stacking old invoices, “otherwise I’d make you pay bills online.”
“The only line I like is a fishing one,” said Angus, his mouth twitching at the corners.  He couldn’t resist adding “Just ‘cos you program computers doesn’t mean I have to like ‘em.”
Steve gave a good-natured harrumph and went in search of his mobile phone.  He gave a whistle and his dog Fancy raced in from the garden with her tongue lolling and eyes gleaming.  “Come on, girl, it’s time to take the old bloke shopping.”
Angus knew that Fancy had been foraging in the garden by the dirt clinging to her paws.  “Glad someone likes my little courtyard,” he said.  She placed a paw on his bony knee and he ruffled her ears.  “No treats yet.”
Before they left, Angus surreptitiously swallowed a blood pressure tablet.
They took Steve’s car and drove into town, parking on a broken two-hour meter.  At the shopping centre, Angus went straight to the rawhide-smelling pet store and bought a packet of dog treats.
“One hundred percent pure beef,” he read.
“You spoil the dog,” said Steve.
Angus jutted his jaw but said nothing.
At the next stop, Angus purchased postage stamps and talked with the postmaster.
“Steve’s going to make me a grandfather in a couple of week’s time.”  His thoughts strayed and he said quietly, “That will certainly change things.”
Steve tapped his watch and mouthed the word “Coffee”.  Angus knew he had just two minutes to pay the electricity bill.  He said to the postmaster, “Can’t miss out on my Café Bijou treat.”
Leaving the post office, they walked a short distance to the café, pausing once for Angus to catch his breath.
“When can we eat at a healthy place?”  Steve sounded like a five year old child.
“When I’m gone,” said Angus, taking off his sweaty Akubra and fanning himself.  The steps going into the café were uneven and he tripped.
“Steady.”  Steve offered his arm but Angus shook his head.
Café Bijou served a wide range of high fat, carb-loaded meals and well sweetened desserts.   Angus enjoyed the never-ending cups of coffee served by the eighty year old waitress Dita.  Her hands had started to shake but she didn’t spill their coffees.
“Dita, you’re a living treasure,” said Angus.  He took a swipe at her apron bow as she ambled away.
“Ah, ha,” Dita crowed, “you never could hit me backside.”
“Don’t know why––it’s broad enough,” said Angus in an aside to Steve, who hung his head and started tapping on his phone.  Angus handed the menu to him.  “I bet you’ll check which sandwiches have the least amount of red meat.”
“Do you have the slightest idea what cholesterol is?” asked Steve.
Angus ignored him and leaned over to take a newspaper off the top of a bundle.  “Same stories, just a different way of writing ‘em.  If sporting heroes stopped screwing up their lives, the media would be stumped for ideas.  Look, one of them died from a health-nut overdose.”  Steve rolled his eyes.
As they were leaving, the treasurer of the bowls club halted Angus in the doorway, asking for a donation for their sponsored charity.  Angus obliged but the chitchat got to him.  Shifting his weight from foot to foot, he said “I’m going shopping with my boy Steve.  He’s pretty busy these days.  Every moment counts.”  With apologies, he pursued Steve’s figure down the street, heading in the direction of the supermarket, his least favourite place.
Fancy had been asleep in the car but woke when she heard their voices returning.  They loaded the grocery bags into the boot.
“We’ve got time to look at a new filing system,” said Steve.
“Let’s do it another time.”
“It would help keep your records more organised, Dad.”
“It’s just how I like it,” said Angus and slipped a dried treat to Fancy.
Once on the road, they travelled in silence until Angus saw Steve glance at him in a melancholy way.
“The doc said my new pills are working just fine,” said Angus, aware that his illness hung between them, an unseen yet active enemy.  “I don’t have another appointment until next month.”
Steve nodded. “Good.”
Angus didn’t add that the surgeon had said he may not be allowed to drive again.
He watched Steve negotiate a corner.  “You’re a good driver, Steve.  Shame I never taught you how to drive a ute across a furrowed paddock.”
“I was too young.  Then the farm was sold.”  Steve toyed with the digital controls on the dashboard.  “You did more for me in other ways.”
After awhile, Angus said, “Can we take a different route home?”
“That sounds ominous,” said Steve but obliged by turning off the main highway.
The rural landscape was sparsely treed with very few farm buildings.
Without warning, Angus said “Stop!”  He asked Steve to pull over outside an old barn-like warehouse with an adjoining timber yard.
“I reckon we could make our own filing cabinet, don’t you?” said Angus.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Bright Cherry Walk Cafe 01
Cosy