Veils, Halos & Shackles – A Voice for Change

Picture a defenceless child being dragged from their home by members of their community – people they trust and love. They scream as they are held down, and again as a cruel blade pierces their skin. They beg for help as their beloved mother looks on in tears, immobile. Everyone gathered hears their pain, witnesses their shame.

And no one

did anything

to stop it.

These are some of the concluding lines of my poem Severed from the Veils, Halos and Shackles (VH&S) anthology. This statement translates the wave of helplessness I experienced upon reading an article on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), written by an aid worker in Africa. I knew about FGM, was aware it happened, but reading that article as a young mother made the practice horrifyingly personal.

My heart broke for the child who had been assaulted. Worse, there was nothing I could do to change it for them. Images plagued my mind, playing out the attack, watching the little one’s terror, hearing their cries. It challenged my comfortable existence, safe from such atrocities. Out of these roiling emotions I wrote Severed.

That was many years ago, well before the remarkable VH&S project had been birthed. What difference could one poem make? Yet, I felt I must pen those words.

vhs_coverfbThen, thanks to visionaries Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay, poets worldwide were invited to contribute to a unique work focussed on the empowerment of women by sharing stories of the oppression against them. Through Charles’ and Smita’s persistence and dedication, VH&S came to have form and eventually found a home at Kasva Press, Israel.

One could say each poem is just one of hundreds in a single work. One could say this poetry anthology is one of countless others. But in May 2015, while VH&S was still going through the publication process, Nigeria banned FGM. What a timely reminder of the need for this publication and the power of using one’s voice to instigate change. Other countries are gradually following suit in banning the practice of FGM.

To quote from the VH&S site:

Veils, Halos & Shackles aims not only to make a statement, but to make a difference—to shock, to startle, and above all, to inspire.

On her recent blog post, editor, former psychology academic and writer, Nola Passmore, reflected on her VH&S poem Petals, a reminder of hope in the midst of destructive abuse and pain. Our fellow South East Queensland contributor, gifted poet and author, Catherine Sercombe (also writing as Mazzy Adams), will follow this post on her blog on October 5, in anticipation of our online launch on October 8. Like the dozens of poets who have contributed over 240 poems to VH&S, each of us have a voice. Yes, we alone are only one, but one voice can apply a balm of healing words. One voice can inspire others to speak up. Over time, one voice can change the world.

Juggling Timelines

Nola 2014 g copyThis is our final ‘Write Time’ guest blog. I don’t know about you, but I’m sorry to see the end of these insightful blogs. What I’ve found so great is the diverse angle each contributor’s brought to their post, and today is no exception as we welcome Nola Passmore to round out this series. Nola is a widely published poet and writer of short fiction and creative non-fiction, not to mention social psychologist and co-editor of the recently released ‘Glimpses of Light’ Anthology. She’s also in the throes of crafting an epic novel, which is bound to bear her stamp of excellence. But I’ll let Nola tell you more about that. Thanks, Nola. 🙂

I have a problem. I’m writing a parallel narrative where a contemporary story about Libby interweaves with an historical one featuring Maggie. The two timelines intersect in that Maggie’s actions in the past affect Libby’s choices in the present. That’s complicated enough, but that’s not my main problem. I’ve set up the plot so that the historical story takes place in the early 1880s and then jumps forward thirty-five years to 1917. How do I account for thirty-five missing years without dumping lots of backstory?

I could fill in the details by continuing Maggie’s saga through those years. However, that would add way too much to my already-bulging manuscript. Another approach would be to narrow the gap by starting Maggie’s story later (maybe the 1890s) and finishing it sooner (well before 1917). However, the plot hangs around some key historical events. Changing my heroine’s timeline would mean altering significant parts of the narrative. Maggie wouldn’t be in Halifax to bring about certain social reforms, the subplot for one character would have to change completely, and the climax could no longer be tied to a real-life catastrophe. Even if I decided to make all of those changes, I wouldn’t be able to stop there because the historical part of the novel affects the present. If Maggie’s story changes, so does Libby’s. Everything is intertwined, with one person’s timeline inextricably linked to others.

Isn’t that the way it is in our lives too? If our ancestors had made different choices about where they worked and lived, we wouldn’t be the same people we are today. Some of us wouldn’t even have been born. Historical events also have an impact in the present. What if Hitler had won World War II? What if Jesus hadn’t died for my sins? What if Lucy Maud Montgomery had never stayed at her uncle’s house with the green gables? What if Lance Hills’ wife hadn’t needed a space-saving washing line?

At the beginning of each year, we have the opportunity to reflect on how we’ve used our time and to think about what we’d like to do differently in the months ahead. We can’t go back and change the timelines of our past and there will always be things we can’t control in the future. However, we can make choices about how we approach life now. In terms of writing, I’d like to focus more specifically on finishing my novel and solving my timeline dilemma. All suggestions welcome! I’d also like to achieve a better balance between work, family life and play. How about you? What are your hopes and dreams for 2016? Sometimes the road ahead can seem daunting, but if we take it one step at a time, we can achieve more than we ever thought possible. With God’s help, it’s going to be an awesome year.

GOLCoverNola Passmore has had more than 150 short pieces published, including devotionals, true stories, poetry, short fiction, magazine articles and academic papers. She loves exploring different facets of creativity and encouraging others to develop their God-given talents. She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. You can find her writing tips blog on their website.