Writing with Style is a new course at Toorak College. We have experienced the highs and lows of all writers who are researching, refining, editing, and sharing their writing with their fellow writers. This stunning anthology represents the work of a whole group of writers, and it is appropriate we begin with a sample of a whole group effort – the cliffhanger. Other pieces are more reflective, and they include vignettes, feature articles, and personal pieces.
Table of contents 1. Vignettes 2. Cliffhanger 3. Perspectives 4. Feature Articles 5. Thanks and Acknowledgements
This one is for fun. A cliffhanger is a warm-up exercise designed to build a team of writers with something in common – the desire to out-wit the next writer. In this exercise students write for five minutes and end their paragraph with a cliffhanger for the next student to work on. Needless to say, writing your character out of a neardeath experience takes a lot of imagination and humour. 6
“Oh, no, Penelope!” “Oh,” cried Penelope as she embraced herself in her own arms. The warm feeling that circulated through her bloodstream caused a sense of security, a sense of belonging a sense of comfort. She had never felt so tranquil and composed as she did now. Not worrying about the stresses in her life, she was in another place holding her beloved Mark. 7:00am, the alarm clock buzzed. No Mark, just a pillow. Sighing, Penelope arose from bed and walked into the kitchen to make breakfast. She couldn’t help but stare at the phone. “Why hasn’t he called yet?” she wondered. She ate her cereal whilst watching the clock; time had never moved so slowly. Getting up to wash the dishes, Penelope jumped when the phone started ringing. Dashing to it, she breathed, “Hello?” “Hey Penelope, how are you going, darling?” Penelope sighed with disappointment at the sound of her mother. It had been six days since their last meeting and she decided she was not going to wait any longer than she had already. She hurriedly finished her conversation with her mother and took the courage to call Mark herself. Penelope picked up the phone, dialed his number and took in a breath as she heard the dial tone change to a constant, ‘Ring Ring’. The phone echoed until a recording of Mark’s voice played on the phone: “Hey Penelope, I knew you’d call sooner or later. Just wanted to let you know that I don’t have any feelings for you, I’ve found a better girl that I love. Please don’t leave a message after the tone. BEEP!” Feeling a sense of despair and low selfesteem, Penelope was full of fury and anger. She picked up the phone and crushed it in her hands electrocuting herself and causing her eventual death. 7
Revenge of the Tentacle
“I don’t like sci-fi,” cried Helen as a tentacle reached through the window towards her. She wrestled the tentacle until she was able to retrieve her light sabre from her belt. With a swift and clean motion, she sliced the tentacle in half, leaving her covered in tentacle juice. “Your tentacles are no match for me, Darth Vader!” exclaimed Helen. As soon as she looked away and searched for an escape route, she felt a slimy object rest on her shoulder. Before Helen could scream she was pulled backwards through the window by a fresh looking tentacle. She then saw a face and it was ugly. “You were wrong Helen, don’t underestimate me.” Darth Vader was right, Helen shouldn’t have underestimated him. There was no possible option to escape that entered Helen’s mind. All that filled her head was panic, nothing registered. At one point, she tried to breathe, but her body didn’t respond. What was she going to do? Tentacle! Tentacle! “Ah,” she said, “I shall use this tentacle to my advantage. This tentacle, although appearing to be my weakness, my nemesis, is actually my hope, my only chance! TENTACLE!” With all the force she possessed she bit down into the tentacle that was attempting to block her airways. “Ha!” Helen cried as the tentacle automatically dropped her to the ground. It was a fair fall, about four floors, and she felt her arm crumple beneath her. Grimacing in pain she closed her eyes. Summoning all the powers of the universe the wind and fire, earth and water, Helen forced the tentacle to unwrap itself.
Ten Writers vignettes are designed to capture a moment in time from the past. The writers here skillfully move outside the frame of the picture in time and space to create evocative, short ‘written photographs’. The writers used a passage from Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye as a model for this style of writing. I think it must have been Lynne who took the photo of us; it can’t have been anyone else. Elonie was my best friend. We were six. It was our first trip to the snow. Our snowsuits were borrowed and we bought new snow gloves especially, we got up early and drove up there for a day trip. We shared everything. We played with Barbies and wore matching outfits. Santa bought us the same rollerblades and pencils. We spent hours at the beach: catching fish in our hats; building sandcastles with long water moats; letting watermelon juice drip down our arms; learning that your snorkel isn’t supposed to go all the way under the water. And trudging home exhausted, sandy. We lean in close. Heads almost touching. Waiting for instruction. I feel too hot in my suit. Which I find odd considering I’m in the snow. I wrap my arm around Elonie’s shoulder. Flash a smile. It’s genuine. Not forced, I am truly happy to be here. Then look towards the camera. The roads were windy and we stopped in a car park to put on our snowsuits, but in the haste and excitement I somehow managed to put my legs through the arm holes and arms through the leg holes which made me look like the hunchback of Notre Dame. To this day I am still reminded of the mistake I made. Right after this photo was taken I recall making snow angels. Standing in front of a ready-made snowman for a photo. Next came the highlight of the day, tobogganing. We rented them, red and blue, and took to the slopes. Our day was completely filled with just that one activity. We returned home. With a newfound love of snow and tobogganing.
Swinging of the billy I don’t know who took this photo of me. It can’t have been my parents because they are watching me in the background. It was the September holidays. The sun was just beginning to come out for spring. I loved to go on the paddock picnics on my farm at home. We have so many great memories that have come from them. Swimming in the dam was one of my favourite things to do. With limited amounts of clothing on we swim and play around in the mud. I used to be jealous of my brother and sister being old enough to ride the motorbikes. I had to sit and watch from the safety of my parents. Dad was always in charge of building the big fire and then a smaller one to cook our lunch on. I remember all the excitement that came from the massive flames. The sausage in bread with tomato sauce was my choice for lunch. We ate around the big fire drying off after swimming in the cool dam. Having a break from activities and talking about the plans for the rest of the day. As usual one of mum and dad’s is to have a snooze and then do some gardening. The noises around us were continuous. I can hear sounds of the birds and the motorbikes. While my brother and sister were being amused, my parents would try to keep me entertained. One of the things they would let me do was so exciting for a 5 year old. In my undies and polo-fleece they hand me a billy full of water. A tradition we have is to swing the billy around without spilling it. It was such a thrill. To be successful you had to have it at the right speed. Too fast and you would throw the billy and to slow the water would spill. The first time is always scary but you get the hang of it. This time I did it well and my parents cheered me on. I loved the attention and started to giggle. The water spilled as I lost concentration and covered me. It didn’t affect me though. After standing next to a hot fire and in the sun the water felt nice. 12
We fill the billy up again and put it in the coals of the small fire. Waiting for it to boil mum gets the tea for her and dad. After they drink we start to pack up the things from the picnic. I climb into the tray of the ute with mum and we set off for home. Tim and Annabel get to ride their motorbikes back up to the shed. I watch them riding behind the ute. I'm happy because I'm beating them home. I can’t wait until the next paddock picnic.
Hot summer days Roger Henderson took that photo of me. I knew he was taking it, but I didn’t want him to, so I didn’t smile. I didn’t much like Roger Henderson, I still don’t, but I have to be polite to him because he’s my Dad’s friend. After Roger took that photo he yelled, delighted that he had taken a picture without me noticing. It was much too loud. I didn’t like loud people, I never have. In the photo, I am six. I have never been inside the house before. It belongs to Roger and his wife, Johanna. We are far away from home, and we had to sit in the car for a long time to get there. We are on a summer holiday, but there is no beach. I Maddy don’t understand why there isn’t a beach. I’m not sure what I’m looking at. I don’t even know whether I was looking at anything, I just didn’t want to look at the camera. It could have been my sister, Rosie. She stood to my left, humming ‘Waltzing Matilda’; Rosie has always been the musical one in our family. Earlier that morning I had a fight with my brother, Jamie. I’m not sure what it was about, but I cried in my room afterwards. I stopped crying in the end, because I didn’t want Roger to catch me crying. He’d probably have said something loud and embarrassing. We were playing Cranium Cadoo when the photo was taken. We run around the house finding blue things. We laugh. It was my favourite game, but now I know all the answers, so it’s not much fun. It is a hot summer. I can see the pool outside the sliding doors in front of me; I want to go into the pool. In the picture I am wearing my pink rashie, it’s starting to get too small. I remember the uncomfortable material, squeezing over my head, as I get dressed in the morning. I wanted to get a new surf brand rashie, all of the cool kids at school had a surf brand rashie, but I had my sisters old one. I always had my Sisters old clothes; I don’t think I liked that. But now I borrow her clothes all the time. My parents are tired. They sit opposite me, on a tatty, old, green couch. A bat flew into the house the night before, and they tried to catch it. I don’t remember if they did or not. It probably just flew out by itself, and my parents claimed to have caught it. My dad is used to being up late. He was never home until after my bedtime, because he worked so hard. My mum used to wait up for him to have dinner. But they don’t live together anymore, so my sister and I make meals.
I don’t know couldn’t have away doing hospital. I’m make it even he never so akin to go out on photo. I want They don’t already
who took that picture of me. It been dad because he’s miles another long shift at the still disappointed he can’t though I didn’t expect him to; does. But I still hope his face, mine, will be in the crowd as I stage. I want this to be a good to be successful, like he is. need to tell me to smile; I’m beaming.
Right after the picture, a voice comes from the walkie-talkie and the grown up models line up by the door. They’re all smiling at each other, but not like my mother smiles at me. She tells me I’m brave for doing this and I believe her. I suck my stomach in as a pretty girl my age moves near me. She makes me feel frumpy. I remember the newspaper article that came out about the Wagga Wagga Wedding Expo a week later. There was a picture of me walking down the catwalk; the pretty girl and the younger one are with me but they are faded in the photo. The photograph focuses on me; I am lit up, like a halo. Looking at it, I don’t think I looked frumpy at all. I walk down the stage at the Town Hall and it’s like Pitt Street in Sydney at night. Mum takes us there when dad has conferences and we stay in nice hotels. Everything is dark- so dark I can’t see the people in the crowd. I feel excitement, imagining what could be there. The stage and wall behind me are glowing like the stars in the night sky and there are blinks of white coming from all around me. They make my eyes hurt but I keep my chin up. I have an important job to do. The other models turn back but I’m caught in the moment and do an extra twirl. The sound of hands clapping and cheering becomes very loud. I want to feel like this forever. As I turn back I see the pretend bride beaming at me, and me alone. I exit with pride. We’re back out of the spotlight and the ladies congratulate us as they steer us back to change. It’s not dark back stage. They have bright lights around the mirrors so we can see our makeup. Everything’s real again; no more pretending. Adrenaline still pumps through my veins, fast and strong, like lots of water is being pumped through too small a hose. I must wait till after the show to join my family. I know they’ll be happy for me. My mouth hurts and I realize after all this time I’m still smiling 15
My mum took the picture of my family and me. It was a very eventful day, full of excitement and fun. I loved the nice breeze and the comforting sound of the ocean in the background. I was very tired from the long walk that we had just completed, all I wanted to do was jump in the ocean and swim my heart out. Dad had an even harder time on the walk because not only did he have to carry our heavy backpack, he also had to carry my 3 yr old brother. I arrived at wine glass bay and thought to my self could this place be anymore beautiful. As we walked down the white sandy beach, it seemed to take a lifetime. All I wanted to do was jump in that water and start snorkeling. The actual walk down the beach seemed longer than the 2-hour walk we just finished to get there. Each step I took seemed never ending until FINALLY we got there. As soon as I got there I wanted to dive right in, I already had my bathers on underneath my clothes so I was ready. Until my mum held us up to do the usual thing. Sunscreen, wetsuit, and snorkel check. Because I wasn’t yet a brilliant swimmer I wasn’t allowed to go in the deep end were all the coral and fish were but we did still see some fish in the shallow end. Dad noticed that Immogen and I were not seeing anything terrible exciting so he let us go to the coral section. We had to go one at a time, with the exception that he was holding us on out bellies. While dad was near the reef the other child had to go wait on the beach with mum and Flynn. When it was Immogens go with dad I was playing in the Mermaid River, it’s the creek that runs into the sea. All I could think about was wanting to be a mermaid. Then it was my go in the sea, it was so fun but all fun must come to an end. It was time to go home, back to real life and away from the mystical land of Wine Glass Bay.
Granny took this photo. At the time, this was what I called her, later; I lost all contact with her. I am six. Mum, Andrew and I stay at Granny’s when Mum’s pain is bad. Granny and I walk along the beach and play card games and watch Bold and the Beautiful. She takes me to the park too, and sits on the bench while I run as fast as I can to the swings. I love the swings; I love the freedom they give me, and the ability they have to get me so high. In the photo, I’m wearing my rolled up navy pants, that I forced Mum to buy me from Pumpkin Patch, and my light blue tie-dye shirt (that’s way too small for me). I can remember Mum wanted me to put my hair up before I left, she said I would get too hot. I didn’t want to, I hate having my hair up. I’m standing; legs shoulder width apart in the water while the sun is forcing me to squint. This is a happy moment. I am in awe of the stories Granny has to tell, and I run and squeal with joy as we find spiral shells to collect on the warm sand. Mum is at home, resting and trying to ease her pain, and my brother is probably watching the television or putting his Lego out as traps for when Granny and I get home. I didn’t know why Dad didn’t come with us; Mum seems less anxious when he doesn’t. His absence confused me a bit, but I didn’t really notice. Sometimes, if Granny has the right ingredients she let’s me help her make coconut macaroons. Every time the tray comes out of the oven she tells me not to touch them, I always break this rule.
In the photo, my chubby hands are on my hips while my feet sink into the wet sand. Granny can’t figure out how to take a shot with her Kodak, I tell her to hurry up because my eyes are hurting from the sun. I’m excited with our efforts of collecting spiral shells; my hat is our storage place for them. My Mum will like this photo; she doesn’t have many photos of us. She says we should get more, 18
but Dad doesn’t really care. I’m so oblivious to everything that was going on, now I look back it amazes me how carefree I was. Sometimes Dad comes with us to see Granny. When he wants to use the boat, that’s when he drives up with us. The boat tails at the back and I get to watch it from my car seat. Our four-wheel drive can handle anything; Dad used to say to us when we thought it was too full. I still used to keep an eye on the boat, just in case it broke away. I can remember looking at the big walls on the Highway, and wondering why they were there and who made them. Sometimes Mum gave me spelling quizzes, and other times she let me practice my timetables. My face is directed at Granny holding her Kodak camera. I didn’t know which to look at. My hair is long and still growing, behind my ears because Mum was right, I did get too hot. I enjoy beach walks with Granny the most; she seems so different now from what she used to be. I remember once I saw Granny move the Kodak down, I went back to my task of filling my hat with spiral shells and squealing at every one I could find. Gabby
I don’t know who took that picture of me. It couldn’t have been dad because he’s miles away doing another long shift at the hospital. I’m still disappointed he can’t make it even though I didn’t expect him to; he never does. But I still hope his face, so akin to mine, will be in the crowd as I go out on stage. I want this to be a good photo. I want to be successful, like he is. They don’t need to tell me to smile; I’m already beaming. Right after the picture, a voice comes from the walkie-talkie and the grown up models line up by the door. They’re all smiling at each other, but not like my mother smiles at me. She tells me I’m brave for doing this and I believe her. I suck my stomach in as a pretty girl my age moves near me. She makes me feel frumpy. I remember the newspaper article that came out about the Wagga Wagga Wedding Expo a week later. There was a picture of me walking down the catwalk; the pretty girl and the younger one are with me but they are faded in the photo. The photograph focuses on me; I am lit up, like a halo. Looking at it, I don’t think I looked frumpy at all. I walk down the stage at the Town Hall and it’s like Pitt Street in Sydney at night. Mum takes us there when dad has conferences and we stay in nice hotels. Everything is dark- so dark I can’t see the people in the crowd. I feel excitement, imagining what could be there. The stage and wall behind me are glowing like the stars in the night sky and there are blinks of white coming from all around me. They make my eyes hurt but I keep my chin up. I have an important job to do. The other models turn back but I’m caught in the moment and do an extra twirl. The sound of hands clapping and cheering becomes very loud. I want to feel like this forever. As I turn back I see the pretend bride beaming at me, and me alone. I exit with pride. We’re back out of the spotlight and the ladies congratulate us as they steer us back to change. It’s not dark back stage. They have bright lights around the mirrors so we can see our makeup. Everything’s real again; no more pretending. Adrenaline still pumps through my veins, fast and strong, like lots of water is being pumped through too small a hose. I must wait till after the show to join my family. I know they’ll be happy for me. My mouth hurts and I realize after all this time I’m still smiling.
Perspective ONE: The dark, heavy clouds above look as if they are about let go, and release the plentiful and long awaited tears, that they have bottled up inside. The castle has many windows. They line the walls from every angle, leaving no room for privacy. Too many windows and too many rooms; too much space from loneliness. There are many miniature towers, poking up like the thorns on a beautiful and delicate rose, from the roof of the castle. There is a dark light that shines upon the castle before sunset. It gives false hope through the bright and still reflection of the water, but as soon as night falls all peace is crumbled and the reality of life settles upon the residence of the castle.
Perspective TWO: The gorgeous peach tinged clouds hover in the warm air above. They look as if they are about to release all their life and exhilaration saved up for this blissful summers night. The castles walls are lined with beautiful windows. All with treasures inside to be discovered and stories to tell. There are also many petite towers upon the castles rooftop, looking over rolling hills and picture perfect waterways. The lasting hours of daylight are those to not be forgotten as the sun slowly sets in the west. The castle is brightly lit up revealing its true beauty. From strong, elegant walls to the precise, fine detail of the window frames and entrance halls. And nothing can interrupt the delicate atmosphere of such a castle on a warm summers night.
Perspective ONE: You never know what’s going to come next. The stairs just continue, a straight line at first; so straight and uniform, not a stair or angle out of place, almost as unchanging as my life. Then a rectangular platform, bland but still an important aspect to the rest of the route. I turn and follow the direction the winding stairs are leading me, and as I turn, I totally turn my back on my previous journey; these stairs remind me so much of the system in my life. All I do is look forward; I can’t bring myself to look back. If I look back, I’ll just see what has happened, and I won’t be able to prepare myself for what’s going to happen. The past is only full of hurt and loss after all, sometimes in life the people we don’t know get hurt; and then, so do the people who we know and love. As much as the building puzzles me, it’s too stuffy for my liking. I’m an outdoors man, and the weather today is just right. Nice and wet, winter rain and summer sun. I’m wearing my brown boots; the shoelace on one of them is ratty so I just let it trod along in puddles. I’m wearing some pants I found somewhere on the floor in my home, and my brown coat. My coat’s not waterproof, but I don’t mind, I’m used to be being in all sorts of weather. I’m walking up the second last set of stairs, and on the platform I can see a well dressed man, appearing quite baffled. The gentleman’s hat brings back memories, memories of love and loss. The gentleman seems to be having a 23
conversation, I don’t want to interrupt, but I have to if I want to see the rest of the building. As I subtly and quietly walk past the gentleman to reach the last set of stairs, I have a sudden epiphany as to why I wanted to have a look in this building in the first place. It was marvellous, I’ll admit. Wasn’t quite my taste, I prefer my family home. I guess someone else will have to enjoy it now, there’s no reason for me to move houses anymore. I had been putting all my spare change in a moneybox, and I was going to use it to help pay for rent. I don’t know what I’m going to do with the money now; money isn’t really of any use to me, it doesn’t bring back lives. I got to the top of the building, and I went into an apartment that’s doors were open, just to the foyer to get a brief glance. Someone else will have to enjoy it, I told myself. It would’ve been perfect, well it still is. As I make my journey back home I wonder how things would’ve panned out, if one moment turned out differently.
Perspective TWO: The rain was pouring down, and drops of water were hitting my head no matter what direction I walked or ran in. If only public transport wasn’t so dirty and disgusting, I wouldn’t always have to make the long trips. I didn’t mind all too much, it was just today’s downfall of rain. It was still sunny though; perhaps later we’ll be able to see a magnificent rainbow come into view from the balcony. As I got to the entrance of the building, I shook off all the weather and gave a quick nod of the head to acknowledge the doorman, who was getting ready to open the doors for me and say, ‘good afternoon sir.’ It was all so fancy, I can’t wait to live here too, and have this sort of high-class service become a daily occurrence. I said the deserved thank you to the doorman and walked into the foyer, preparing myself for the walk to the upstairs abode. I know I’m young, but stairs are a struggle for me. All the running I do has damaged my knees pretty badly, but I’ll still climb them, although with exasperation, it will be worth it. I started the first set; luckily for me they weren’t too steep. I was tempted to use the black railing to help when I finished the first set and coming to the end of the platform. No, I’m not an elderly man who’s unfit and can’t even climb some simple stairs. I’ll just push through the pain, I thought to myself. I got to the second last set of stairs, and I couldn’t help but notice the overly old-fashioned man. He doesn’t belong in these times, I thought; I assume he’s stuck in the past and kept walking. Before I get to the top I quickly check my breath, just to make sure the mints did their job. I reach the top and knock on the apartments grand door; I wonder what’s happening right now behind the door, I wonder what the inside looks like, I wonder if I’ll tick the right boxes.
Perspective ONE: I look at this building, remembering what once was. All those days I came here when I was joyful, those days when nothing could be better. Now the only thing I see when I look at this building is, nothing. It looms over the people below like a being of darkness; the brown bricks so structured and sound, the windows in perfectly in line, much how my life used to be. Each brick has a tale, each nail has a story. The building is bursting with life and character but I can no longer enjoy its beauty or appreciate its essence. All I have left now is the memories of once was, the memories of a happier time, the memories of before.
Perspective TWO: How I love this building, how its greatness reminds me of this vibrant time in my life. Its tall and structured frame looks upon us with its rays of sunshine. Each window you see reminds you of all the people you hold dearly to you in you life. With each brick a new story, a memory of the happiness in life. The spiral frame around this magnificent building compliments it perfectly. It is like it will do anything just to protect this cherished piece of history and superb architecture. This building is bursting with life, it’s architectural wisdom will inspire people from all over the world, to make their dreams come true and create something this wonderful in their own lives.
Perspective ONE: It was built from stone, presumably once pristine white, but winds of irremovable dust have darkened the fortress, like stained innocence. It is beautiful, perhaps for the pleasure of its owners, perhaps for the envy of others. Facades only conceal the ugly truth. It is tall, perhaps to provide an advantage, or protection in war. There is no advantage in war. The gentry and the very wealthy once dwelled within these walls. Their lives filled with pomp and grandeur at the cost of the very poor and the vulnerable. Too wealthy to fight and too arrogant to care; kings in the chess game that sent their pawns into the battlefield to die for them. This fine example of wealth and power was there creation. As I gaze up at the haunting structure towering over me, I wonder what the cost of human life was to protect this unfeeling mound of rock, and I wondered, how they could justify that it was worth it?
Perspective TWO: Never was there an edifice of more beauty. Glowing in the bright dawn, the citadel is the epitome of romance and mystery. Brilliance of mind combined with devoted craftsmanship had created the current structure before me. Though made from straight lines the shape of the building is indeterminable due to its many extensions that protrude forth at seemingly random. An abundance of shadowy windows contrasts intriguingly with greying stonewalls. The great oak door, an original relic, simply invites exploration. The gateway beneath the Clarence and Bear towers inspires many a flight of fancy of knights in shining armor astride noble steeds, and fair damsels with flowers braided through their golden curls. The majestic castle presides over its lush surroundings from its imperious location atop a prospering hill. I long to search the entirety of the castle, from its outer curtain wall and bastions to its most private rooms. Perhaps I would even come across such a balcony that one might dream could be that of which inspired Romeo and Juliet.
Perspective ONE: Dark, intimidating clouds fill the sky with anger, blue patches creating false hope of escape from this world, false hope that everything will turn out okay as the night approaches. Hostile exposed grey bricks tower high, to create an unwelcoming fortress. Standing tall and strong, the castle threatens those who dare to enter it’s isolated confines, the large wooden door keeping intruders out. Slotted windows surround the building, preventing light from entering the dark, lonely space inside, as the cold tower sits alone and empty. Through the windows, the mysterious bush land grows wild. Tangles of plants fight each other for survival, for a glimpse of light. Moss grows on the aged castle, the stained walls covered in un-maintained creepers, as it stands alone and empty.
Perspective TWO: Blue sky began to shine through the dark sky, the weather clearing up to create peaceful, joyous day. Beautiful aged bricks created an old, loved building, the years of love forming regal, respectable towers. Windows surrounded the castle, allowing light to flow into the open spaces, through the windows, a picturesque view of bushy green surroundings. The scenery formed a wonder of opportunities, and adventure waiting to be explored. A big, wooden door welcomes visitors at the entrance of the castle, the arches making the building magical. Fit for a princess, the castle stands tall, sturdy and strong. 27
Perspective ONE: Bold charcoal that lingers over the weathered and cracked concrete is what gives this building its uneasy stature. With age festering over the grainy façade, much like an old photograph, this texture is the result of years of occupancy, memories and past eras. The white wash shutters that frame the barred, dirty windows seem to give this place an opportunity for light to perch among the forgotten walls within. The newly added installments assure me time has approached and made its modern imprint of what use to be a hoary shell of a building. Nature seems to shadow a similar course of action, becoming longstanding and unappealing to the eye. Once a lively and regenerative tree, all but now a hollow shard of the past.
Martin Luther King Jr nailed it, Winston Churchill lead a country with it; Derek Sivers made a movie about it. Now this is my search for the tools to create the perfect leadership speech. Unfailingly, every year Head girl speeches are exactly the same. I sit and listen to each, periodically losing interest as each candidate takes her turn, stating her plea for us to believe she is a leader. But as Margaret Thatcher said, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t!” The same goes for leadership. There is the funny girl who begins her speech with an analogy on something “all Toorak girls can relate to”. There are the serious girls who inform us that they are smart, reliable and – with a stern expression- friendly. And then every year there is the unfortunate girl who stutters, blushes and promises us she is good at public speaking. I shake my head, a mix of sympathy and annoyance clouding my judgement of her speech. I hate stutterers. I would excuse it on nerves but that it is the duty of Head girl to be able to speak clearly under pressure. I ponder what speech I would give, how I would make it memorable, believable; how could I make people think that I was a leader without out rightly saying that I was. “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t!” As an A type being, I immediately retrieved my MacBook Pro and checked my favourite search engine – Google- for ideas. “Leadership quotes” was the first thing to be explored. Good leaders are knowledgeable about other good leaders and therefore should quote them to show that knowledge. It would also make me seem intelligent. By inserting a quote into my speech I can at once give the impression to my audience that I am well researched and knowledgeable. There wasn’t one quote on the first page that I could use. They were either too cynical or implied that leaders were people who had leadership forced on them. "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" wrote William Shakespeare. This was not the message I wanted to sell. I doubt anyone would believe I had the position of head girl forced upon me or that I was born for the role. Another quote by Peter Drucker, an American Business Man, said, “effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” 30
Well in this case it was about making a good speech so that I would be liked so that I would get head girl. Feeling that this would not be popular with my fellow students I ‘back’-ed into the main search page. “You need to make everything clearly about the movement, not you” How would I present this speech? It would take something remarkable to make my speech stand out. Should I get off the stage and stand in the crowd, proclaiming that I would stand with my fellow students, not before them as head girl? Should I break into song and dance with music coming on from the speakers? Should I create a video and play it in the background on why I would make a great, nay the best, head girl? I decided that this was perhaps forbidden or unwise- however memorable. I found a website that detailed the top 10 greatest speeches of all time. They varied from General Douglas MacArthur’s “Duty, Honor, Country” speech at number ten, to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” at number one. Speeches from Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Socrates all made the list. The speeches had precious little in common. They all used the word “you” and “we” a lot. Inclusive language is a persuasive technique I understand. I recognize this technique used in a lot of the head girl speeches. Another technique adopted is emotive language. This is a tried and failed technique as far as I am concerned. Four years of experience has taught me that the girls who get the leadership positions are the ones who crack the jokes not the tears. The next stop was youtube. Derek Sivers, a man who describes himself as an “entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life”, created a video titled the First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy. This video instructs us not only how to become leaders, but of the importance of the first follower. Sivers gives four easy points for becoming a good leader. First, you must make what you want people to follow “so simple, it's almost instructional…you must be easy to follow”. I nodded along watching the shirtless man fluidly repeat voodoo magic moves. Second “a movement must be public” and thirdly you need to make “everything clearly about the movement, not you.” Adolf Hitler certainly had a similar idea. He stated that “the art of leadership…consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.” Of course, as prominent leader as Hitler was, he has many unsavory characteristics, which make me reluctant to adopt him as my role model.
But the most
important step, 31
according to Sivers, is “nurturing your first few followers as equals”, as they are what “transforms a lone nut into a leader.” This advice could certainly be applied to several leaders. Jesus Christ started off as the lone nut, preaching about heaven and performing strange miracles before he was joined by and embraced his disciples. Perhaps if Cordelia, from Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, had nurtured her close followers she would have had longer lasting success with leading them. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech focused solely on the movement of equality for black and white people, not about he himself, just as Winston Churchill’s “We shall Fight on the Beaches” speech was not about he himself leading Great Britain to victory, but the whole country fighting their way to freedom. “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” It took Wikipedia to do it, but I eventually found a quote that I thought related to head girl. Alan Keith of Genentech described leadership as being “ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen." Though not my personal definition of leadership, it would serve its purpose. Head girl is an opportunity for students, not to save the world or lead their school into a bright future, but to develop their leadership skills. No one really expects them to make a substantial difference. If the school implements a horrible new rule, the head girl won’t be blamed. The buck doesn’t stop with them it stops with the principal. The Head girl is theoretically the voice of the students, and maybe some of them are, but their real purpose is to be an inspirational role model for other students and provide an appropriate public face for the school. I close Google, content with my findings. The funny girl makes her speech, we laugh and applaud and I think “Here we go again”. I probably won’t see her till her next public appearance, but she has inspired me to start writing my speech now. Maybe I’ll start with “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Thank you St Mathew). I could be answered with laughs or silence. I could be the new inspiration.
An illustration of “The Norman Rockwell Mode”
“A new home meant a new tradition” this is what my dad told me. For the first time ever we would have a real Christmas tree and our new home would be filled with the scent of pine needles, and it meant the world to me. The textbook definition of ‘tradition’ is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation. Christmas, Hanukkah, Australia Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Ramadan are different holidays that (for each family) represent different traditions. But traditions do not always come with a day off or national recognition; traditions could be the simple act of eating at the table on weeknights or having fish and chips every Friday. Traditions are different for each individual and family. In a modern world where people are busier, an event where the whole family participates can be few and far between. Trying to preserve a tradition isn’t always easy and without dedication traditions can become non-existent. But a tradition gives a family stability and also a sense of belonging. Being a part of something that not everyone else is it makes your family special. Traditions are important and should be upheld. It can also be something to look forward to at the end of a busy week or even to celebrate a new year. Family’s can celebrate or even invent a new tradition. Seth Cohen from the popular TV series The OC invented ‘Chrismukkah’ merging two religious holidays into one big family tradition. For him this means “Eight days of presents, followed by one day of many presents” a tradition that brought together his family of both Jewish and Christian beliefs. Traditions are a way to bring people together especially for families that may not see each other day to day but each year get to all catch up. Traditions offer a way for families to stay connected and in each other’s lives. On that one day of every year for as long as you can remember you take your family whoever that might be, and spend the day, night or week with them. Traditions often reflect your family’s values or beliefs. In Margret Atwood’s novel Cat’s Eye Grace’s family go to church every Sunday and then have lunch together as a family. Religion can play a big part in the tradition of families. Catholics and Christians attend Sunday Mass. My own grandmother goes every Sunday morning to church and attends Rosary during the week. Muslim families fast over Ramadan and Buddhists chant and meditate each day. Religion often reflects your morals and way of life but it also influences your traditions. 33
In Australian families a Sunday roast is a tradition and a favorite pastime of many. It’s a good way to end the week and begin a new one. Like pizza on Saturday because it’s the day when mum or dad can’t normally be bothered to cook can be considered a tradition. Each family member looks forward to this and it can be a time to come together even if just to pick out what to order. A tradition is something to look forward to and everyone can use that. A family meal should not be underestimated. A tradition of sitting down at the table without modern distractions like the TV or phone can be healthy and provide a chance to go over the day. Reality TV stars the Kardashian Family say the ‘peak and pit of their day’ at the dinner table. An article in Time Magazine outlined a study that has shown that a child who eats with their parents are 40% more likely to get A’s or B’s at school. "A meal is about sharing," says William Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis and author of The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties. In the 1950’s there was the ‘Norman Rockwell mode’ the traditional family meal. The mum cooked, the dad cut the meat, the son packed up the table and the daughter cleaned the dishes. Family tradition does not have to go back to the 1950’s but a family dinner is a valuable tradition and it has been proven to make a healthier family. Michael Carr-Gregg, a leading Australian physiologist said “For many people, the festive season is a wonderful and happy time; a period of the year in which they interact with loved ones, enjoy good food and receive plentiful gifts.” Christmas whether you celebrate the religious aspects or not can be a wonderful time to see extended family and come together. There are many traditions that come with Christmas, setting up the tree, singing carols, making gingerbread and seeing Christmas lights. These traditions are exciting as they only happen once a year. That then leads into New Years Eve this tradition gives you a chance for a new years resolution a time honored tradition, this gives you the opportunity to better yourself or change something. Tradition is not only eating Christmas pudding and receiving gifts but also contributes to how we live each day. Traditions can teach appreciation and give a family stability. There are different holidays and something to suit each family or create their own. Traditions are different for each family but that is the beauty of them. The writer currently resides in Frankston South, loves to travel and is a lover of all things Christmas.
I look back at my time in primary school and compare my friends to now and find myself grateful for what I have. Is it just the human race that needs someone to talk to, have someone listen to their problems? There have been studies on animals and primates that show animals shows of social attachments or friends among their peers. For example the savanna baboons, form plutonic bonds between males and females by grooming each other and help each other to get food. Friends make your life better, without them you can no longer discuss your favorite book over a nice cup of tea, no one is there to re-assure you that the red dress you want to but doesn’t make you look fat. The most important thing in life is friends, there are days when you love them and days when you don’t, but in the end there the people who you confide in, the ones you can trust. Friends are the ones you want to spend time with and they are the ones that want to spend time with you. Friends are your “family” and they will always be there for you. A friend is someone that you choose to be in your life, not by relation or birth. Someone that knows all your secrets, fears and dreams. A friend will compliment you when you on your gorgeous new pair of shoes. They will give constructive criticism when that hair colour makes you look like a tomato. Friends are there to support and to constructively and subtly persuade you. Expert Psychologist Dr. Irene S. Levine’s says a friendship is made up of these things: “The tendency to desire what is best for the other, Sympathy and empathy, Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one's counterpart, Mutual understanding and compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support, Enjoyment of each other's company, Trust in one another. Positive reciprocity - a relationship is based on equal give and take between the two parties.” Friends allow you the ability to be oneself express one's feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgment. Jane a 40-yr-old woman from Fitzroy: My friends Maddie and I have been ‘besties’ since kindergarten. We do everything together, talk about our husbands when they are leaving crumbs on the couch, yet again. To our weekly run down the road to get our weekly Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse Vanilla slice. I am an only child so I never really had anyone to talk to, now my problem is I can’t stop talking to Maddie. She is there for me when I
need her most; she is my doppelganger, my other half. If I never had meet Maddie I don’t know who I would be. The media has also picked up on this friend’s fanatic; there have been a number of popular TV sitcoms revolving around friends for e.g. Friends, Seinfeld and Sex and the city, all consisting of a group of friends that do everything together. Friends are you family; they’re the people you chose to spend the rest of your life with there the people that are most important in out life’s. You spend hours on end with them, they are the people who you can rely on the ones that will never leave your side and are the ones that help you to achieve greatness. “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12:26). Friendship is a vital part of maintaining a healthy social life. Since you spend so much time with your friends, they can shape who you are so if you choose incorrectly you may end up with a bad personality. “Friendships form one of the most proximal contexts with a critical role in mental health and social and psychological development. These results might highlight the role of empathy and reward-related processes in friendship. Thus, we may have identified a potential mechanism by which friendships exert such a critical role in development and mental health.” Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen. So what does friendship mean to you in this modern day and age? Is friendship your undying love towards your Collingwood Football team or your never-ending support for your favorite tennis player in Wimbledon? Has friendship evolved from its original purpose, of picking berries in tribal groups? Friends are more then people who you just go to school or work with, they are people that make your life worth living, they are the people who you spend theoretically, picking berries with.
‘We rarely stop to think how much we take time for granted, and how much time we’ve already used and will continue to use in our lives’ The beige four-wheel drive reversed out of the driveway, into the cul-de-sac, young Jack’s head bowed down and his father looking at his mother’s actions. Watching this, it felt like forever, really it was just a moment. The mother was trying to open the door on Jack’s side, climbing and reaching. His father told her to move, she didn’t. He drove the car forward, she fell onto the bitumen. It felt like an eternity, it felt like time slowed down. I can remember everything, the way the car left skid marks on the road, the mailbox being knocked, Jack’s window going up, his father’s brown top with the potbelly protruding. I remember all the emotions, feeling helpless and stuck at my window, his mother’s terror and hasty reactions, his father’s violent movements and Jack’s confused expression. I distinctly recall the echoing sound of the car driving away, my gasp of air, my lightheaded movements away from my window; Jack’s mother lying on her back, limp on the ground. Whenever I think of this moment, I can recall every minute detail as if it’s actually happening. I still feel it in slow motion; I still live it through, every second feeling like my whole life. It’s in my memory, but I view it in the present. It won’t go away, every thought, every action, every emotion in this moment is all wrapped up and can be re-experienced with just a simple trigger. Time didn’t slow down for me, although it felt like it did. My perception of time was slower, one theory would say. A recent experiment by David Eagleman at Baylor college of Medicine, Texas showed that in emergencies and frightening events, our perception of time doesn’t actually slow down. Volunteers fell backwards off a 150-foot high platform into a net, while the other volunteers on the platform timed how long it took. When it was their turn, they had to approximate how long their falls took, and overall the volunteer felt their falls went longer than they actually did. So, their perception of time was slower, but what if you used a perceptual chronometer? The scientists let the numbers flick so fast you could hardly see them, because if it were really our perception we would see the numbers slow down while we were falling. During the fall, the volunteers couldn’t slow these numbers down, but they said it felt slower in retrospect. David Eagleman explains that this is due to the Amygdala in our brain, which in frightening events becomes more active and sets another set of 37
memories. Because these memories are richer and denser, it will make the event feel longer and slower. Not matter how time feels to us; it rules our lives. We are controlled by time. We try and make more, we try to slow it down and speed it up. Though we can’t touch, see or hear it, our day is structured around it. Whether we think it’s going slowly, or it flashes before our eyes, we rely on time to get things done and give our lives foundation. Time is one of the most richest and most intricate patterns in life there is. We spend our lifetime going through it, using it up and waiting for more. But we rarely stop to think how much we take time for granted, and how much time we’ve already used and will continue to use in our lives. Of course, when we’re young time feels slow. When our parents tell us we have to wait for something next week, it feels as though we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. As we mature, time grows with us. We’ve seen it all before, we experience less and our memories just aren’t as rich as our childhood ones. The richness and density of our memories affect our feeling of time. The more intense the event is, the longer it felt. This is why time feels different throughout our lives, when we experience something intense, such as our youth; our perception of time slows down. A study done in 1997, by Mangan and Bolinsky, showed that younger people could estimate time more correctly than older people. A set of 20 year olds were asked to estimate a period of time, and then a set of 60 year olds estimated the same amount of time. Overall, the older group estimated the time to pass 20% more quickly. Then there’s the theory of relativity by Einstein. Einstein questioned Sir Isaac Newton’s theory that time was unchangeable; he believed time changes with our point of view. Einstein explained his theory of the perception of time this way, ‘imagine an infinitely tall building, and you’re in an elevator that’s falling the whole time. You can walk, drop things, and gravity feels the same. If people outside this building could see this elevator, they would think you were falling the whole time. You don’t think that because there’s no change in what you’re doing, from your perception it might seem people outside are flying.’ Time is a perception, a changeable perception. In Margaret Atwood’s novel, Cat’s Eye, the perception of time is mentioned by Elaine’s physicist brother, who says, ‘if you put one identical twin in a high-speed rocket for a week, he’d come back to find his brother ten years older than he is himself.’ Stephen then goes on to say, ‘you don’t look back along time but down through it…nothing goes away.’ Time is constantly interwoven into our lives, from 38
planning our days, separating morning from afternoon and afternoon from night. It structures our lives so it forms a clear pattern. Time, the changeable and repetitive system in life, has become the ultimate struggle. We can’t get enough of it. While Margaret Atwood focuses on the past in her novel, in classical Greece there is a strong belief in fate, and that a person’s future is set. Although there were powerful gods that controlled aspects of lives, none of them could override the power of fate. The Delphic Oracle once said, ‘No one, not even the Gods, can escape his appointed fate.’ Moiragetes, the god who was the ‘guide of fate,’ was and still is the ultimate reality, even to the god’s. In Greece, it’s believed that every person, or ‘mortal’, has a thread held in the palace of fates or destiny. Three God’s were involved in controlling fate. Clotho (she who spins), spun the thread of life from her stick onto her spindle. Lachesis (drawer of lots) measured the thread of life allotted to each person. And Atropos, (meaning inevitable) chose the manner of the person’s death, when their time was up, Atropos was responsible for cutting their thread of life. Whether you focus on the future or the past, we have always followed the structural pattern of our day. Everything had, and still has a certain time and place. School starts at a certain time and ends at a certain time, five days a week on a regular basis. Our perception knows this, and our body clock knows this. This is the pattern of life, and when we’re done with school we move on to a work pattern, and when we’re done with work we simply pass time, but still keep to a regular time pattern. This is the essence of the feeling of time; this is how we recognize intervals of time; and how we jump from one period to the next. There is simply nothing like time. Whether it’s slow or fast, structured or not it will never leave us. Time isn’t the variable, we are the ones who speed up and slow down.
I used to see them in magazines or on the TV and ask myself; why didn’t I look like them? Why didn’t my skin have a perfect complexion? Why wasn’t I stick thin? They were all so “beautiful” and almost perfect, but were they really beautiful? Today we live in a society were appearance is the most important factor. We all go to such drastic measures to achieve what we believe is “beauty”. If you have a good personality that is just considered a bonus. In China, women believe that small feet are petite and are considered very beautiful. To achieve this “beautiful” feature, women used to bind their feet. This would involve breaking the toes, and then binding your feet together causing the broken foot to fold at the arch. To people from a different culture this would be considered unnecessary and horrific, but to the Chinese, it is stunning. Famous models today are stick thin, causing them to look very unhealthy. Millions of women world wide are rejected by the modeling business because they are viewed as “too fat”. Coco Rocha, a size 6 former vogue model, was told she was too heavy to continue runway modeling. 'I’m not in demand for the shows anymore,' says Coco. 'I’ve been told to lose weight when I was really skinny.' So many young teens feel under pressure to have the appearance of a super model, causing them to develop eating disorders such as anorexia, “The images of impossibly thin models overwhelm today’s teenage girls” says Dr Susan. S. Bartell. The media is to blame for influencing us into believing what they think beauty is, it’s almost “unnatural” for a teenage girl or women to not wear makeup or be interested in fashion. You see thousands of ads on TV promoting makeup, millions of women everyday are hiding who they really are underneath behind some concealer, lipstick, eye shadow and mascara. “We should treat cosmetics they way we do cigarettesraise the prices so no one will buy as much anymore” says Stephanie, a university student who is against make-up. A British school has even banned makeup and has taken out mirrors from all the bathrooms because they are concerned their female students spend too much time retouching their makeup in the bathrooms. "The British school not only banned makeup for its younger students, they also temporarily took down the bathroom mirrors” says a mother of one of the students at the school 40
As I have grown older, I know realize that these models being advertised in the media everyday, are not truly beautiful, to achieve there appearance, their photos are edited in such a way they are almost unrecognizable, they are unhealthily thin, and are hidden underneath layers and layers of makeup. Beauty comes from within, an unhealthy figure and a thick layer of foundation, should not be considered beautiful at all.
Here’s the question I sometimes ask myself: Am I crazy? It’s a question that baffles me, and my answer changes every time I ask it. Mostly, I like to think that I am. I want to know I’m not a boring empty nobody who goes from day to day, without that mad side wanting that little something extra. In saying this though, I do sometimes wonder if I could just let go of all normality and turn into one of those mad people, who rock in chairs and write complicated poetry that no one can make sense of. Writers, artists, and anyone who’s ever let that crazy side out in the open, have always had to be careful it doesn’t overtake their sense of normality. In fact, the eccentrics among us are never really sure if we should let the madness out or keep it hidden away. Would we be happy being crazy? Not having to worry about pleasing society, what food to eat or what words are spoken. We don’t have to set the alarm to go to work for someone, we can write or draw or think about the wonders that some people haven’t even explored before. In fact, we could wrap ourselves up in our own little worlds, stop washing our clothes and forget what day it is altogether, while not caring one bit. It’s a miracle there are any sane people left in the world. Relieved you can finally be crazy? Not so fast, because you also risk leaving the real world. It’s implanted in our nature to want to be part of society, and to have friends and know what we’re doing. Being ‘crazy’ is dangerous. Being ‘crazy’ may entail being mentally disturbed, particularly in a violent and wild way. Suffers of strange ideas, absence of sensitivity, feeling on the edge, fear of everyone around you, constant mood swings, suspicious moods, thoughts of conspiracy, hallucinations and delusions. Doesn’t sound so exciting now does it? Christina Sponias, a psychologist and writer breaks craziness down for us. She explains in her articles that we have three different types of consciences, human, wild, and anti. We all start off with the human conscience, having feelings and being aware of our actions. When the symptoms of craziness kick in, this is the result of our wild conscience invading the human. This wild conscience plays a 42
major part in the fear aspect of madness; it makes the person become afraid of everyone and everything to frighten the human conscience. When the wild conscience has kicked in, the anti conscience starts to take its place. The anti conscience destroys the human conscience and is in charge of the violent and cruel aspect of insanity. Have you noticed how many famous people seem mad? One is Charles Bukowski, a poet who seemed mad to the bone. His poetry often reflected being crazy, being misunderstood and being different from everyone else, with lines such as, ‘some people never go crazy, what horrible lives they have.’ Charles Bukowski had a drinking problem, spent his nights drinking, writing and keeping away from the world. Even Tim Burton, is a man who seems to have no sense of normality. A well-known poem of his, Vincent, is thought to reflect how he felt as a child. One of the lines, ‘his horrid insanity had reached its peak,’ all point to signs that he’s suffering from a madness. Tim Burton may suffer from Bipolar disorder, and he expresses his moods and feelings through his works. Emil Dickinson, an icon in poetic history, was also a sufferer of manic depression. Her poetry was her way of letting out her insanity, and saying things that most would deem unhinged or absurd. When I first began to think about this idea of craziness, I thought about all the poets and artists who lived the crazy life. I wondered whether they were so wrapped up in insanity that they didn’t even notice, or if it was the only thing that was on their mind. I pondered about being in a room, just a small room that didn’t have anything interesting in it. If I walked into that room with a crazy mind, I would probably end up thinking that aliens kidnapped me and turn into a cat. Honestly, I would prefer to keep my craziness hidden away and let it out when absolutely necessary. For now…
Thank you Ten Writers:
Maddy, Lorinda, Teishyn, Miranda, Gabriella, Robyn, Laine, Lizzy, Grace, Georgia
A very special thanks to Gabriella,
Creative Director and Editor of Ten
Writing with Style is a new course at Toorak College. We have experienced the highs and lows of all writers who are researching, refining, e...
Published on Nov 20, 2011
Writing with Style is a new course at Toorak College. We have experienced the highs and lows of all writers who are researching, refining, e...