The superb gift of a book cover

We needed a book cover!

I’d finished the manuscript, but we still didn’t have a book cover that we loved. I needed to hold the cover lovingly in my hands. I wanted to feel the warmth of it when I hugged it to my chest but most of all I wanted Samilya and I to experience a burst of pride when we said, “this is our book”.  How could we get one photo to represent the trauma and complexity of Samilya’s life?

We weren’t without ideas and had two photoshoots where beautiful photos were taken. In my head I had this ethereal image of Samilya walking into the distance, holding the hand of her younger self. Both photographers captured the image as I’d described it. I loved the photos, and one of them appears in the book… but they didn’t call to Samilya or myself in the way that we needed for a cover.

We had a couple of old photos of Samilya as a child, but they were poor quality and not compelling.  We also had some photos of St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol, but I didn’t want that ugly, horrible place on our cover.

I hate this book cover!

Then the publisher came up with a concept, which quite frankly I hated. They had another go, kept the concept but tweaked it, I hated it more. Friends I showed it to also disliked it. How do you diplomatically tell someone you hate their work? Aagh…. it wasn’t meant to be like this. They were meant to come up with a wonderful concept, I didn’t even see myself as a writer and I certainly wasn’t a cover designer. I was exhausted and burdened by the book, I so wanted to hand this part of the process over.  The publisher had finished with the manuscript, the pressure was on, only the cover was stopping publication.

Peyton Blake to the rescue!

In despair, I sat on the couch late on a Saturday night scrolling through stock photos “I’ll just buy something” I thought. Disappointed that although Samilya and I had both put our hearts into the book, the cover would be impersonal, disconnected from us. That Saturday night I found a picture of a sad girl sitting on a step, “maybe this will do”.

Then I turned to my friend who was staying with me, Peyton Blake. “You take photos of fashion models: do you think you could recreate this photo for me if I get a model tomorrow”. “I can do better than that photo” she responded.

First thing in the morning, I called the young model’s mum with inspiration brewing… “Can I borrow your daughter for a couple of hours, now?” I begged. Thankfully our model was available, and I could see Peyton eyes dancing with creativity and relishing the challenge of bringing our inspiration to life.

Then Peyton realised she was missing the specific memory card she needed to store images on her camera. That tiny memory card was held up in storage due to Covid, as Peyton was only passing through on her travels north. Peyton rang camera stores trying to locate a card but none were available close by. My heart plummeted, more lost time, more delays, did this mean no cover?

Peyton had seen billboard images advertised as being shot by a phone, so she convinced me that she could take the photos on her phone and get the quality we needed for the cover. We arrived at our location, a professional photographer and an apprehensive author, ready to ‘shoot’ using a mobile phone.

A professional photographer, an apprehensive author and a mobile phone on a shoot.

Peyton used her skills and experience to style the model, keeping my concept in mind, and we ventured around the neighbourhood, searching out steps and spaces to capture photos of a sad girl destined for a book cover.

As Peyton captured multiple images, she showed me the photos. She knew I wanted a specific look, but she also knew that it was about an elusive feeling, something that would convey the trauma, isolation and despair of Samilya’s life. The images were beautiful, but nothing quite captivated me…..yet.  The model’s mum suggested another location, by this point I was disheartened. I’d almost had enough but reluctantly agreed to one last stop.

The perfect photo for our book cover

This time Peyton took the model a short distance away, and mum and I stood back chatting distractedly in the distance. Peyton believed the model would relax with fewer eyes on her.  I believe it was in this quiet, intimate moment that Peyton and the model formed a bond and created the storyline. Then there it was, the perfect photo, of a sad, lonely, traumatised little girl captured empathetically and brilliantly by Peyton. There was no doubt in my mind that Peyton had captured exactly the photo I needed. Thankfully, Samilya wholeheartedly agreed.

Peyton later told me she felt great pride and satisfaction in being able to bring my image to life, knowing Samilya and I could now hold our book in our arms with the burst of pride I had hoped for.

And the model – that’s Samilya’s youngest granddaughter.

Our hearts are full of love, gratitude, delight and pride each time we pass our precious book over to a new owner.

Thank you, Peyton.

You can follow Peyton Blake on Instagram:

Peyton Blake Photography
emerge Models

 

Thanks for making me a better writer

I had no idea how to write!

Basket of the book Not Forgotten: they called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage When I started talking with Samilya and playing with the idea of writing her story I envisaged a historical novel. My fantasy included crafting turbulently romantic scenes and bold acts of heroism. I soon realised that this was not the pathway for recounting the abuse and neglect that had been foisted on Samilya. I needed to place Samilya’s story in a historical context and provide a psychological overview of the impact of trauma on her life. The reality became hours of library and internet research and ploughing my way through tombs of government documents.

I had no idea how to write a novel and even less idea of how to write a biography. Yet still, I persisted. I needed to become a better writer.

I asked for feedback on my writing

Anne Moorhouse providing reader, who made Anne a better writer, with copy of Not Forgotten: They called me number 10 at Neerkol OrphanageI am blessed to be surrounded by a group of intelligent, educated, thoughtful readers in my life and so I reached out for help – I asked for feedback on my writing. Handing over my draft manuscript was terrifying. Here was my best – what if it wasn’t enough? I was tentatively stepping into the arena and asking for criticism. I could no longer see what needed work in the manuscript, I was drowning in it.

And so started a process where I would edit the manuscript, hand it to a carefully selected reviewer, listen to their feedback and make more changes – or not. Then I would repeat the process with the next reviewer. It was often hard to hear what my readers had to say. Sometimes it was excruciatingly painful. Always it was useful and they made me a better writer. The manuscript is far richer for their input.

I asked for a lot of feedback. By the time I finished 15 people had read and provided feedback on my writing – psychologists, social workers, academics, a well-known author, those with legal backgrounds, some who saw the bigger picture, some who were detail-focused, a few who loved me and one who didn’t know me.

During the feedback process, I became better at asking for what I needed my reviewers to look for.  I learnt to listen without becoming defensive. I became adept at choosing which feedback was useful and which wasn’t. I was full of gratitude for the time and consideration they took to share their thoughts with me. I have since given feedback on another writers manuscript and it’s a tough job.

 And then I engaged a professional editor.

This weekend we celebrated

Samilya Bjelic and Anne Moorhouse at celebration of readers who made Anne a better writerWith great joy this weekend Samilya and I presented our reviewers with a signed copy of our book Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage. It was wonderful to fill the room with friends who had read a draft version of the book and who understood how important Samilya’s story, and that of all Forgotten Australians, is.

 

Finding joy at a book launch

Somewhere to be and something to do

With both trepidation and excitement, Samilya and I launched our book Not Forgotten: They called me number 10 at Neerkol orphanage at Logan East Community Neighbourhood Centre (LECNA).

Samilya has volunteered at LECNA for over 10 years. LECNA is a special place for Samilya, inspiring a chapter in the book – Somewhere to be and Something to do.  As Samilya writes:

The Centre has been a lifesaver for me, they’ve helped me more than any Royal Commission or Forde Foundation. I did the Knowledge, Networking, Intervention and Training  Program with them, they call it the KNIT program, it’s a positive behaviour management program. That was good. For a while, I went to the Centre just about every day.  They gave me somewhere to be and something to do.

They clamoured for signed copies

While we always envisaged launching the book at LECNA, nothing prepared us for the love and support shown to Samilya on the day, and the days following.

Samilya signing bookThe launch took place after the volunteers monthly lunch.  Before we even had the books ready for sale we were besieged by Samilya’s colleagues and friends wanting a copy. Everyone clamoured for Samilya to sign their copy.

 

 

For a moment we felt like movie stars as we lined up for photos, with our own paparazzi.

People taking photos

Finding joy at a book launch

Book chat

Gillian Marshall, Executive Community Manager interviewed us and we did our first ever book chat to a wonderfully supportive audience. We finished with the painful, and seemingly endless silence that happens when you ask “Any questions from the audience?”  Then the real magic happened – one by one audience members stood up.

Samilya and three friends

They did not ask questions but instead, they made heartfelt addresses to Samilya. Recognising the importance of her story, the courage she has taken to ensure all Forgotten Australians are remembered, the contribution she has made to the centre and the work she had done in the community. There were promises to promote the book.  There were tears of sorrow and joy.

We never expected to find such joy at a book launch.

Thank you LECNA.

Buy Paperback – Click here 

Buy Ebook – Amazon Australia – Click here

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Book Launch!! Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage

Just released

In 1954, two-year-old Samilya was abandoned by her migrant parents and placed in St Joseph’s Home, known as Neerkol Orphanage, outside of Rockhampton. After suffering years of insidious abuse at the hands of the Catholic nuns and priests, at age 10, Samilya is returned to her mother’s care where the trauma continued.

Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage, as told to Samilya’s friend, psychologist Anne Moorhouse, lays bare the lifelong effects of horrific childhood abuse and neglect. A psychological overview places Samilya’s trauma in developmental context, and explains Samilya’s mental health diagnosis, dissociative identity disorder.

Samilya is one of 500,000 so-called “Forgotten Australians” who were placed into childhood institutions from 1920–1970. Not Forgotten follows her marathon fight for elusive justice from the 1999 Forde Inquiry through to the 2013 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Each day Samilya fights to survive, to work, to have a home, to be a good partner and a loving mother. All Samilya has ever hoped for is an ordinary life.

Buy Paperback – Click here 

Buy Ebook – Amazon Australia – Click here

Buy Ebook – Amazon US – Click here

Stepping into the arena

The end is tantalisingly near. I can almost feel the weight of the book in my hand and smell the print on the page. This eight-year journey of narrating Ms Forgotten Australian’s biography has been much longer than I expected. We’re not quite there yet and I feel so impatient!  I’ve sat with frustration and a sense of injustice as we were delayed by legal matters. I’ve struggled to harness my patience while those who matter needed time to reflect on the impact the book would have on them. I’ve been exhausted and bored by the seemingly endless hours of work. Now, as we get much closer to having a book, alongside excitement I feel the bubbling cesspit of anxiety and fear.

Self-doubt makes an appearance

My mind wanders to thoughts like “What if people tell me the book is terrible?” “What if no one reads it” “Who am I to think I can write a book?” “What if my peers, or clients, think I’m an awful psychologist?” “What if there are mistakes I haven’t found?” “What if I’ve misrepresented Ms Forgotten Australian?”  “Self-publishing is not the same as being a real author!”

We all experience self-doubt but I refuse to allow self-doubt to ruin this time for me. I was musing over how to manage these thoughts and feelings when a client mentioned the Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Rosevelt and a talk on the topic by Brene Brown.

The woman in the arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the woman who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt (of course he wrote it about a man… but I like it better about a woman)

Invite your critics into the arena

 

The quote resonated with me.  I am about to step into the arena. I will be vulnerable and exposed as I present the best of me to the world in the form of a book. Why wouldn’t I feel some fear?  There will always be critics in the audience, both real and imagined. Brene urges us to reserve a seat for the four critics who will undoubtedly turn up.

 

  • Shame – the universal feeling that we all experience.  As a critic, it tells you you are not good enough.
  • Scarcity – This critic tells you that what you are doing is not original, that there are better educated, trained and articulate people than you. That what you are doing does not matter.
  • Comparison – it’s the death of joy.  My comparison critic will undoubtedly tell me I should not even mention the name, Brene Brown alongside my own.
  • Yourself – the critical internal voice with its familiar messages, known only to you.

So come on in critics and take a seat up the front. You will not tell me anything I haven’t already thought of. You are so familiar. I will see you and I will hear you but I will continue.  I am ready.  I will dare greatly. I will step into the arena and if I falter, as I may…I can always watch Brene Brown again, pick myself up and continue.

When did you step into the arena?


 

Waiting outside the psychiatrist’s office

Getting there

My friend is terrified of lifts so we climbed up the dingy stairwell to the third floor, only to find our exit door locked. After pointlessly pulling at the securely locked door a few times, we turned and scurried back down the stairs, to find the door we’d entered through also locked. Anxiety slowly rose in my throat. What if we’re stuck in the stairwell for eternity?

Empty office corridoor

Frantically, we descended further flinging open the lower ground floor door to the street, bursting out into the bright sunshine. We re-entered the building, now no option remained but to brave the lift. My friend scooted into the back corner, her body firmly pressed against the walls, arms folded against her chest. Her eyes startled with fear and yet also relieved that we were the only ones locked in the confined, windowless space that she hates so much.

The long hallway to the inner city psychiatrist’s office was bland and soulless, terracotta tiled floor, cream walls and mission brown fixtures – a flashback to the ’70s.

Waiting outside the psychiatrist’s office

The psychiatrist, unknown to my friend or me, greeted her warmly, even though we were 10 minutes early.  The psychiatrist had received a myriad of documents and clearly knew that this appointment was going to be distressing for my friend. Despite the kindliness of the psychiatrist, my friend looked pleadingly at me as she slowly followed her to the psychiatrist’s office.  She Continue reading

Lucky Cardinal Pell – now not so lucky

Lucky Cardinal PellCardinal Pell Sentenced!

Today, 13/3/2018, Cardinal Pell received a maximum sentence of six years for the sexual abuse of two teenage boys, after Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1966.  He will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.

While handing down the sentence Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Pell been “breathtakingly arrogant” and “brazen and callous” in his offending.

That Australia’s most senior Catholic leader has been found guilty of child sexual assault astounds me.  No longer is the Catholic church successful at covering up its heinous deeds.

Pell will, of course, make an appeal.

Take care of Yourself and others

Australia media is inundated with this news of this case and undoubtedly survivors of child sexual abuse will be triggered. Some ideas for caring for yourself and others can be found here: Taking care of yourself (or a loved one) in the wake of George Pell’s conviction

Survivors and Solicitors 

Pell is now guilty and imprisoned. It’s likely that others who have been sexually abused as children, and who have remained silent, may now be considering legal action against their perpetrators.  Before you embark on a marathon legal journey, read Survivors and Solicitors, and make sure you have a strong team with you.

Original Post 8 May 2018.

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic leader, was committed to stand trial for Continue reading

Easing the burden by reaching out

Burden of elephant supported by balloonsClients often experience a wave of relief after their first counselling session.  Their burden is shared and they feel joined on their journey.  That old saying, a worry shared is a worry halved rings true.

Sometimes, you don’t recognise how burdened you’re feeling until the load eases, as I experienced recently.   I’d been working on Ms Forgotten Australian’s biography for over four years and had come to the end of my skills, capability, and motivation. I knew I had to do more but had no idea Continue reading

Australia’s own Spotlight? Is this finally a crisis in the Catholic Church?

Writing the biography of Ms Forgotten Australian led me into a foreign world, one of abusive Catholic clergy and the ominous power of the Catholic Church. Ms Forgotten Australian spent her childhood in the now infamous St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol. Sadly her time there included child sexual abuse by priests and systemic cover-up by the Church.

In May 2018 Archbishop Phillip Wilson was convicted of the cover-up of sexual abuse of altar boys. Priest Jim Fletcher abused the boys in the Hunter Region of New South Wales during the 1970’s. Last month Magistrate Robert Stone found Wilson guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person.  This is a landmark Australian case due to the precedent it set.  The conviction Continue reading

Meeting Alice’s Daughter on Sorry Day

On Saturday Ms ForAlice's Daughter gotten Australian and I listened to Rhonda Collard Spratt, who, with Jacki Ferro has authored Alice’s Daughter: Lost Mission Child.  Rhonda is Alice’s daughter and she is a delightful raconteur. She shared stories of her life, enlivened with music, poetry, and much laughter.  Aunty Rhonda, as she is known, brings warmth and inclusiveness to a story of violence and separation.

Continue reading