Well, my friends, 2023 is coming to an end. I hope you have all achieved something you set out to do this year. It’s been a busy year for me, and sadly an unproductive one when it comes to writing.
I have completely and utterly struggled to find time to write the past twelve months. Yes, I’ve somehow snatched small pockets of time here and there but have felt frustrated that my works in progress have pretty much all but stalled.
Like many others, everything else has taken priority over my passion this year. Sometimes I felt like I spent most of my time doing what I didn’t want to be doing, while being where I didn’t want to be. Stuck in traffic on my way to and from work, at work, at kid’s sport training / games, cooking, doing housework, and supporting my mum. Like most people who have a family and work full time, the list goes on.
I also started a new demanding day job this time last year at a large Sydney teaching hospital at a higher grade, with more responsibility and a slightly longer commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Me at the day job
With all the frustration and stress coming to a head a couple of months ago, I made the sad decision to stop producing ‘The Write Words Podcast’ with season three seeing it end. It was taking up time I could spend writing. I enjoyed bringing listeners three fun filled seasons and got the chance to speak to writers from all over the world. I am proud of what the podcast achieved.
I am still plugging away at two new books and have committed to spending time at my local library whenever I can to enjoy some much needed peace and quiet. I plan to release my humorous Christmas novella, titled 'Tis Not the Season To be Molly', in late November next year. Here is an excerpt below;
Nina shoved a crumpled piece of paper in Molly’s hand and asked her to follow the instructions. It seemed to be a map of some sort telling Molly the kids places on the stage for act one. As she turned around, Nina had disappeared.
OK, Breathe Molly. You can do this. They are five-year-olds. How hard can it be? ‘OK kids, listen up. Can I please have all the gingerbread men to the right, all the angels to the left, and all of Santa’s little helpers down the front? Mr and Mrs Claus, you can also come down the front. Reindeers up the back, please.’
The noise was deafening. No one was listening. It was like she was screaming into a void. ‘Mary, Joseph, and the three wise men, you can leave the stage. You are not on until act two. I will let you know.’ The five kids scrambled from the stage, knocking over the manger as they went. ‘Be careful. Try not to kill poor baby Jesus.’
A gingerbread man had wet his pants, two angels were fighting, one elf was trying to rip the arms off poor baby Jesus, Mr and Mrs Claus appeared they were heading straight for divorce, and Rudolf was screaming the place down because he had lost his nose.
It seemed Nina had gone AWOL. ‘I’m sure she’ll be back soon. Shall we get started then?’ Who said that?
A teacher sitting at the piano in the very corner of the hall started to play, and it was like watching all the jigsaw puzzle pieces fall into place. Are you kidding me? The kids all took their places and act as one fell into place.
It was a dance routine to ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.’ The most wonderful time of the year, my arse! Nina suddenly appeared as if she had emerged from a puff of fairy dust. ‘Molly, what the hell happened to the manger?’
‘A stampede. And if you are wondering what happened to baby Jesus, ask the evil little elf over there?’
Hayley Walsh (c) 2023
'Scattered Scones' is the title of my other work in progress. This one is close to my heart. It differs from my other books. Yes, it contains a bit of light-heartedness, but it centres around a comfronting shock diagnosis and how it affects relationships, careers, a person's overall wellbeing, self-confidence, and quality of life. Like my book titled ‘Not Dead Yet’, it was inspired by my day job and the living experience of the patients I care for. Here is an excerpt below;
Penny once again sat in the musty old community hall surrounded by people living with dementia and their loved ones. Chloe had insisted that she come to the meeting before they headed off on their road trip.
Miss pink and perky was wearing a yellow sundress with a lemon cardigan. Penny smiled up at her as she addressed the room. ‘Welcome everybody, we have a couple of fresh faces here with us today. Please make them feel welcome and remember, this is a safe space.’ Today, Penny saw her in a more positive light. Al least she is trying to bring some happiness and colour to this depressing, dull place.
After many a tear shed on Chloe’s shoulder, Penny had made a conscious decision to see these meetings as an opportunity to learn as much as she could about the disease and try to stay positive. Surely, it’s not all bloody doom and gloom.
They conducted an exercise where both the person with dementia and their carer shared with the group three things that scared them about the diagnosis. Penny found it confronting but decided to be brave and tackle it head on.
Hamish had accompanied her to the meeting as Chloe was finalising things at the café. The siblings held hands as they went around the hall to share their stories. People were at varying stages of their disease, so not all could contribute.
A woman, whose husband had just been diagnosed, stepped forward to volunteer as the first participant. The rest of the room breathed a collective sigh of relief. She turned to face him and took his aged yet handsome features in her withered hands. Her voice was shaking as she spoke.
‘Harry, we have been married for sixty-one years. They have been the happiest years of my life. You mean the world to me. We have had a wonderful marriage. I cannot recall ever having gone to bed angry with each other in all these years. You have been a loving and hardworking husband and an amazing father to our three boys, who thankfully, all take after you.’
The look of pure and utter adoration in her eyes was unmistakable, and there was not a dry eye in the hall. The lady continued as her husband brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it tenderly. ‘I am afraid you will forget all our adventures together. Having our children, travelling, and our love for each other. I am afraid I will lose my patience with you when you don’t remember things. During our whole marriage, I can’t recall ever having raised my voice to you. I am afraid of watching the most beautiful soul I have ever known slowly fade away before my very eyes, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.’
Her husband wiped away her tears, reached into his pocket and handed her a clean hanky. She turned her seat back to face the others in the room and whispered through muffled sobs, 'That right there is why he is my rock, and I'd be lost without him. He is always there for me.’
Her husband told her he was most afraid of forgetting who she was. He told her that she was more beautiful today than she was on the day he married her, and he didn’t want to ever forget her lovely face.
It was a sad yet beautiful thing to watch, and an ever-increasing flutter of butterflies let loose in Penny’s stomach as she waited for her turn.
Hayley Walsh (c) 2023
I have not yet decided if I will query agents or go straight to self-publishing ‘Scattered Scones’, but I will hopefully have much more time to work on it in 2024.
Writing will continue to be a source of joy and much needed therapy for me, and this year brought more regular 'Sydney Writers Meetups' with fellow creatives in our Harbour City. These are something I started late last year. They are a lovely way to make new writer friends and offer each other support face to face over a nice lunch. The next one will be in March, so if you are in Sydney, be sure to follow me on (X), formerly Twitter @TaylesbyHayles or Threads @taylesbyhayles for the details.
Some pics from a couple of this year's meet ups
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year. Remember to be kind to one another, give to those less fortunate than you, spend time with loved ones, and find some time for self-care.
Lots of love