Perinatal Mental Health Week 2020

Do you know that it is Perinatal Mental Health Week 2020? A time to raise awareness and collaborate to ensure that parents in need know they are not alone.

1 in 5 mums and 1 in 10 dads experience perinatal depression and anxiety, which is 100,000 Australians each year.

pmhweek.org.au

Australian writers tell the truth about perinatal anxiety and depression in poetry, fiction & essay in the new anthology, Not keeping mum, edited by Maya Linden, published last month. I was honored to have my short story, The New Baby (first published in Quadrant magazine) included in this important anthology.

Heartfelt, at times confronting and occasionally funny, this collection gives insight into how women navigate the profound changes that occur in their bodies, relationships and lives when they become a parent, and how they find the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Anne Buis

All profits from the sale of this book go to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia).

My Flash Fiction, Sober Sixty

Libby Sommer and 'Grieve" anthology

Have a read of my flash fiction ‘Sober Sixty’ first published in the August 2020 Grieve Anthology, Stories and Poems of Grief and Loss.

Sober Sixty:

Samantha’s single women friends were envious, although she assured them Johnny wasn’t perfect. Mood swings, challenging stuff like that.

Nobody messed with Johnny. Nobody knew better than he did, he was always watching YouTube and learning new facts and figures. Also, he rode a motorbike and practiced shooting at weekends. There were Facebook groups for bike riders and a rifle range nearby. Johnny was proud of being a rev-head and a good shot with his gun, and not many people could disagree that he had unusual interests for a man his age.

‘Sober since forty and counting,’ he said about his sobriety. They didn’t talk about his twenties and thirties.

There’s a photograph of the two of them from Christmas day. Johnny had tried to lower himself to Samantha’s height for the photo so they’d be on the same level. ‘Stand up tall,’ she’d said. ‘Stand to your full height.’ ‘That’s right,’ he’d said. ‘You like things big.’

‘What does ATP in ATP Cup stand for?’ was the type of thing Johnny would call out while she poured him a glass of water before setting out on a stroll around the block.

Samantha thought she knew the answer, but didn’t want to risk being wrong. She’d learnt to tiptoe around his wildness and dreaded the fighting when she wasn’t attentive enough to his needs. Dry drunk, AA called it. The unpredictable rages were doing her head in. She knew she needed the courage to walk away.

Now she’s getting by a day at a time.

Her friends say she’s one of the lucky ones. She’s dodged a bullet.

Copyright © Libby Sommer 2020

Grieve 2020 Anthology available from Hunter Writer’s Centre website or Booktopia https://hunterwriterscentre.org/bookshop/

The 2020 Grieve Anthology

Libby Sommer and 'Grieve" anthology
I received my contributor’s copy of the 2020 Grieve anthology from the Hunter Writer’s Centre today. Stories and Poems of Grief and Loss. My short story ‘Sober Sixty’ is part of the collection.
The back cover reads,
‘2020 is the 8th year of the Grieve Project. Since 2013, Australians have submitted poems and stories about their experience with parental grief, sibling grief, loss of a home and numerous other forms of grief and loss.
‘2020 was a year of collective grief for Australia and the world. Yet the telling of grief here is much the same as in previous years. While tales of devastating bushfires and the crippling consequences of the coronavirus do feature in this anthology, its core remains unchanged: grief is universal arising from a multitude of experiences and we express it in myriad ways.
‘Writing about grief is a most notable expression. This anthology exposes that nobility and humility. It also gives us, the readers, hope.’
I feel honored to be part of this book.
Available from Hunters Writer’s Centre website or Booktopia

Poem: Bronte Beach

 

cafes, buses, palm trees, bright blue sky, cars on Bronte Road, Bronte

I like to create a strong sense of place when I write. I find it grounds my stories and poems. Pre-pandemic, Bronte Beach was one of my favourite homes-away-from-home. I used to hang out in a cafe there writing in my notebook. My poem Bronte Beach is entirely grounded in place.  It was first published in Wild anthology (Ginninderra Press,  2018). Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Bronte Beach:

The surf’s been hammered by rain,

and along the pavement open-faced cafes wedge side by side:

compact, glass-fronted, in flattened

Art Deco buildings, with competing blackboard menus.

Rain drips from the edge of the canvas awning,

and a smell of fried fish in rancid oil

through the mouth of the sliding door

as an oversized bus pulls in and blocks the view.

Marooned on the swell are wet-suited board riders,

unwavering as the cliff face above the rocks that define the beach.

Beyond the rock pool the waves

remain stubbornly low spreading a shallow calm.

The rain settles, rusting roof racks in the salt air,

and those expired meters will upset the fattened

people-who-lunch in the darkening afternoon.

All day the treacherous ocean scours

the man-made sea pool, where

all-weather swimmers scan the water

for migrating dolphins or whales.

A white-hulled speedboat appears

in the grey-blue, travelling north,

and the black-clad board riders wait,

grounded, legless pigeons who can,

in a heartbeat, fan their iridescent wings.

Squabbling seagulls swoop and dive

and chase each other between the palms,

each white slow and steady flap of wings

picked up by the whiteness of the backwash

of the speed boat out there on the pastel-pink ocean,

disappearing behind the haze.

 

Copyright 2018 Libby Sommer

 

 

‘Not keeping mum’

book cover 'Not keeping mum', mother and babyMy contributor’s copy of ‘Not keeping mum’ – Australian writers tell the truth about perinatal anxiety and depression in poetry, fiction & essay – edited by Maya Linden, arrived by courier yesterday. Am very proud to have a story included in this important anthology to be launched on Wednesday 6 May (Maternal Health Day). $9.99 https://au.blurb.com/b/10013951

MEDIA RELEASE:

SUICIDE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR AUSSIE MUMS: NEW BOOK AIMS TO END SILENCE ON PERINATAL MENTAL ILLNESS

 

Perinatal anxiety and depression affects up to 1 in 5 new and expectant mums—and in Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for mothers during pregnancy and the first year of their baby’s life (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). Perinatal mental illness is common, and can be devastating for women and their families. So why aren’t we talking about it?

 

On Wednesday 6 May 2020 (World Maternal Mental Health Day) Not Keeping Mum, a new collection of writing, will be launched to help break the silence around the shocking reality of perinatal mental illnesses in Australia. The book features confessional essays, fiction and poetry by twenty-two authors from across the country, edited by Maya Linden (Just Between Us and Mothers and Others) with a preface by Anne Buist, Professor of Women’s Mental Health (Austin Health and University of Melbourne) and author of the Natalie King trilogy and The Long Shadow.

 

“As a perinatal psychiatrist I know how fearful women can be—but how brave and determined they are to be the best mother they can, sometimes against the odds”, says Buist. “Heartfelt, at times confronting and occasionally funny, this collection gives insight into how women navigate the profound changes that occur in their bodies, relationships and lives when they become a parent—and how they find the light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

Inspired by her own experiences of postnatal anxiety and depression—and knowing how writing through the illness helped her survive and recover—author and editor Maya Linden’s goal was to create a collection that opened up conversations on the topic:

 

“Nine weeks after the birth of my daughter, and with no history of mental illness, I slipped overnight into a terrifying episode of anxiety and depression which saw me hospitalised twice in the first year. But during all my many prenatal health appointments no one told me about this risk and how common it really is. Awareness needs to be increased so women can be prepared for the possibility perinatal mental illness and not feel so scared and alone if they do go on to be affected.”

 

All profits from sales of the book go directly to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia).

 

Contributors to the collection are available for interview and comment. Extracts are available for reprint. Copies available for review, giveaway or promotion.

 

For all enquiries:

Maya Linden

+61438 553 019

mayaclairlinden@gmail.com

 

Book details:

Not keeping mum: Australian writers tell the truth about perinatal anxiety and depression in poetry, fiction & essay, Maya Linden (ed.)

ISBN: 9781714603886

Softcover: AU$9.99

For purchase at https://au.blurb.com/b/10013951

World Maternal Mental Health Day

Renoir painting of mother on cane chair outside breastfeeding child
Pierre Auguste Renoir

Wednesday, 6 May 2020 is World Maternal Mental Health Day: raising awareness of maternal mental health issues so that more women will get treatment and fewer will suffer.

I responded to a call out for submissions of stories, essays and poems that address perinatal depression and anxiety.

I’m delighted to tell you that my short story ‘The New Baby’, first published in Quadrant magazine, has been selected for inclusion in this anthology.

The planned release date for the anthology is May this year, to coincide with World Maternal Mental Health Day.

What a privilege to be part of this important collection of 25 stories, poems and essays that will also be featured as part of PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Awareness) week in November.

Every November PANDA Week provides an opportunity to increase understanding in the community about an illness that is more common and more serious than many people realise.

First Amazon Review of ‘Glass Walls’

Editors Meenakshi Bharat and Sharon Rundle at launch of Glass Walls

First review on Amazon of GLASS WALLS, published by Orient BlackSwan, stories of tolerance and intolerance from the Indian sub-continent and Australia edited by Meenakshi Bharat and Sharon Rundle (pictured). Thrilled to see my short story HENRY received a special mention. GLASS WALLS was launched recently at the Australian Short Story Festival in Melbourne. Have a read of Punekar’s review:

“This collection of stories tackles a wide variety of subjects and is categorised into Family, Race, Gender, Religion and so on and that is why I enjoyed the book. One could pick and choose a story to read depending on one’s mood. I specifically liked the stories on Family and Gender. The stories on race brought out the dichotomy that exists in all of us, as mentioned in the introduction to the book. Right thinking people are determined not to be biased and want to do the right thing but the subconscious mind often has another agenda. The rational aspect of the personality loses out in certain circumstances. This is brought out in the stories on family too, particularly the story titled “The Wedding Gift”. Another story I liked was the one titled “Henry”. We behave in the most irrational ways but we are not bad people, not really, just human. All the stories are not equally good, but all of them touch something inside your heart.” – Punekar

GLASS WALLS is available from Indian publisher Orient BlackSwan.

Glass Walls anthology launch update

glasswalls cover

Exciting news from Meenakshi Bharat re launch of GLASS WALLS in India on Tuesday 24 September: ‘Her Excellency Ms Harinder Sidhu, the Australian High Commissioner in Delhi has kindly agreed to release Glass Walls.’

The Australian launch of GLASS WALLS will be Sunday 20 October in Melbourne as part of the Australian Short Story Festival.. I am honored to have a story included in this collection of stories of tolerance and intolerance from the Indian subcontinent and Australia. There’s my name on the back cover alongside literary greats such as David Malouf and Elizabeth Jolley.

So what is the Australian Short Story Festival?

The Australian Short Story Festival is an annual celebration of short stories in written and spoken forms. The Festival brings together local, national and international short story authors and oral storytellers in a culturally diverse and vibrant celebration of storytelling in the shorter form.

My favourite contemporary short story writer is Canadian Alice Munro. I have five of her collections on my bookshelves.

Alice Ann Munro is a Canadian short-story writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. Munro’s work has been described as having revolutionized the architecture of short stories, especially in its tendency to move forward and backward in time. Wikipedia

When it comes to the classics, it’s hard to beat the gigantic talent of writer James Joyce.

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde and is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the 20th century. Wikipedia

His most often referred to short story is The Dead.

“The Dead” is the final short story in the 1914 collection Dubliners by James Joyce. The other stories in the collection are shorter, whereas at 15,952 words, “The Dead” is almost long enough to be described as a novella.

This is the last paragraph of James Joyce’s, “The Dead” and an explanation of what it means by sparknotes:
Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried.
—“The Dead”

‘In the very last paragraph of “The Dead,” and hence the last paragraph of Dubliners, Gabriel gazes out of his hotel window, watching the falling snow and reflecting on his wife Gretta’s recent confession about her childhood love, Michael Furey. Previously in the story, Gabriel had been intoxicated and energized by Gretta’s preoccupied mood, which reminded him of their courtship, but her outburst of sobbing undermines his self-assurance. This quiet moment of contemplation portrays Gabriel’s muted, hushed acceptance that he was not Gretta’s first love, and that in fact he has never felt love at all. The blanket of snow suggests this sense of numbness in Gabriel’s character—he is literally frigid to emotion—but also the commonality of this trait. The snow does not fall only outside of Gabriel’s window, but, as he envisions it, across the country, from the Harbor of Dublin in the east, to the south in Shannon, and to the west. In other words, everyone, everywhere, is as numb as he is.

‘In this image, Gabriel also contemplates his mortality, and how his living experience intersects with death and the dead. Snow falls everywhere in Ireland, including on the grave of Michael Furey, who has so recently entered his life. In his speech at his aunts’ party, Gabriel had called for the need to live one’s life without brooding over the memories of the dead, but here he realizes the futility of such divisions and the lack of feeling they expose in his character. Gretta cannot forget the pain of the dead in her life, and her acute suffering illustrates for Gabriel that the dead are very much a part of the lives around him, including his own. That Gabriel’s reflections occur in the nighttime adds to the significance of this quote. As he now broods over the dead, he hovers in that flickering state that separates the vibrancy of one daytime from the next. The darkness above the ground mirrors the darkness beneath the ground, where coffins of the dead rest.’ – sparknotes

I love a well written short story. What about you?

‘Glass Walls’ Pre-launch

 

'glass walls' book cover

Such a thrill to see my name in the list of contributors to ‘Glass Walls’, stories of tolerance and intolerance from the Indian Subcontinent and Australia, alongside famous authors  including David Malouf, Elizabeth Jolley, Bruce Pascoe, Debra Adelaide, Roanna Gonsalves.

‘Glass Walls’ had a pre-launch at SAFAL (South Asian Festival of Art and Literature) at the weekend.  At the event I was invited to read my short story ‘Henry’ (first published in Quadrant). Am honoured to have my work in this important book published by Orient BlackSwan, edited by Meenakshi Bharat and Sharon Rundle. The book will be released this month.  It will be fully launched at the Australian Short Story Festival 2019 in Melbourne October 18-20.

‘Glass Walls’ challenges readers to look deeply into their own prejudices and reveals how small intimacies of intolerance become the bedrock of world tragedies that tear humanity apart. A powerful anthology.’ – Susanne Gervay OAM

book cover 'Glass Walls'

Launch of WILD anthology

Libby Sommer reading from Wild poetry anthology

Last weekend I read my poem BRONTE BEACH at the launch of WILD anthology (Ginninderra Press), at East Avenue Bookshop, Clarence Park, Adelaide, South Australia.

More than 50 of us squeezed into the bookshop to read our poems and to listen to 30 different voices from New South Wales, Victoria, The Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, and South Australia.

In the anthology a total of 159 poets from around Australia explore the many facets of ‘wild’ – human, animal, environmental and metaphorical.

Such an honor to be included. This is my contribution to the book:

 

BRONTE BEACH

The surf’s been hammered by rain,

and along the pavement open-faced cafes wedge side by side:

compact, glass-fronted, in flattened

Art Deco buildings, with competing blackboard menus.

Rain drips from the edge of the canvas awning,

and a smell of fried fish in rancid oil

through the mouth of the sliding door

as an oversized bus pulls in and blocks the view.

Marooned on the swell are wet-suited board riders,

unwavering as the cliff face above the rocks that define the beach.

Beyond the rock pool the waves

remain stubbornly low spreading a shallow calm.

The rain settles, rusting roof racks in the salt air,

and those expired meters will upset the fattened

people-who-lunch in the darkening afternoon.

All day the treacherous ocean scours

the man-made sea pool, where

all-weather swimmers scan the water

for migrating dolphins or whales.

A white-hulled speedboat appears

in the grey-blue, travelling north,

and the black-clad board riders wait,

grounded, legless pigeons who can,

in a heartbeat, fan their iridescent wings.

Squabbling seagulls swoop and dive

and chase each other between the palms,

each white slow and steady flap of wings

picked up by the whiteness of the backwash

of the speed boat out there on the pastel-pink ocean,

disappearing behind the haze.

© Libby Sommer 2018

East Avenue Bookstore, Clarence Park

red book cover of Wild anthology

Am very grateful that my poem is in this wonderful anthology of diverse voices.

Thank you Annette Kay Jolly for the photos of me reading.