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Emerging Writers Festival.

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June 16, 2015 by Dadinator

It wasn’t going to plan….

It was late, but I was on my way. Lights overhead flicking past the screen of the dash in the odd extreeme-slow-strobe rhythm of the freeway. I was watching in the mirror to see her eyes. If I could see them, all was well. She grinned at me when she caught my face in the mirror, and I grinned back before my eyes flicked back to the road with it’s flow of reflectors and dashed lines.

It was just the two of us as whirling down the Calder together. I had noticed the petrol gauge on the car, and I was concerned. Even perturbed… Our car’s dash gives us a figure – how many kilometres left in the gas tank (LPG that is). It had been clocking down steadily, and it was clocking down faster than the distance between the car and the service station clocked down on the green signs we sailed by. It beeps at 80, 40, 20, 10 and 5. It had done a lot of beeping… I tried to use willpower to bring “The Calder” (the petrol stop) closer to where the car was via some kind of space-time bendy thing…. I was certain it wasn’t working as the dial hits single figures. I was breathing more quickly as I continued  along and watched the dial clock its way down to zero. And then…. ZERO…. I was in uncharted territory, according to the dial the car was clean out of gas, yet the engine whirred on and the wheels kept on turning. I was waiting for the engine to cut out. What happens when they run out of fuel? Do they sputter? Just stop? Do they explode?

My searching eyes then fell on a sign that told me I was 2km away from fuel. Would we make it? It was supposed to be the whole family experiencing this adrenaline rush, but it hadn’t transpired that way. That morning my son had greeted me with demands for breakfast shortly before greeting me with the entire, foul-smelling contents of his stomach spread across the dining table. Poor boy was ill, no hope of getting him to Melbourne tonight. That had meant The Mamanator had to stay back too, which was disappointing but unavoidable. So it was just us.

If the counter kept going I think it would have been at -2km by the time I pulled under the enormous canopy erected above a cluster of 30 odd petrol pumps I strained in the neon lighting to find the LPG pumps sprouting in the forest of unleaded. Found it I did, and I filled her up with The Lass’ door ajar so we could chat as I did it. We went in to pay together (don’t leave kids in the car folks!), and drove on.

We pulled up at my mum’s place and I immediately started to set up for The Lass (port-a-cot and all that), before settling down for dinner and a Mamanator-less nighttime.

I was down in Melbourne to speak at the Emerging Writers’ Festival. I was going to talk about writing and family life, and I’d spent most of Wednesday in front of students with it playing on my mind. I had things to do before I could give it serious thought though, there was dinner to feed to The Lass and then there was bath and bedtime to do. Like most of my writing, this task was going to have to wait for my fatherly duties to be done.

Once The Lass was asleep – with barely any major crises at all – I sat with a blank piece of paper and a pen in front of me and I scrawled. What did I want to talk about? How did I start blogging? Why do I write? What the hell is dad blogging anyway?

More questions flowed:

Is dad blogging a movement? Do I see myself as an advocate? Am I trying to shift or change some social paradigm I can barely define myself? Do I have a need to write because of an innate desire to express myself and be understood? Do I write because it’s a way of venting and managing the stress of it all? No idea really.

It’s all this guy’s fault… He wrote something that lit a fire under my butt a long time ago. It coupled with a time in my life when I felt trapped, when I felt that being strong meant I couldn’t talk about how I felt. So I wrote about it – only for myself.

But that wasn’t it. Or at least it wasn’t the whole story…. More thoughts came to me as I scrawled. Eventually though I had to sleep. A well-prepared zombie is still just a zombie… I slept for a while, then I got woken up. Then I slept for a while more and got woken up again. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep. The Lass was being very Lass-ish.

The morning went quickly. Shower, apple, coffee, on a tram into the Wheeler Centre.

Ready for the soiree....

Ready for the soiree….

After a second coffee I was in a room, a room with breakfast tables and some  at the front, where I was going to sit on one of them. I met Samuel and Isobel, and talked about how it was going to run. I had more coffee, ate some cereal and it was on.

I remember more of what the others said. About writing for children, writing as an expressive media, writing with a clear message. They talked about process and they talked about some of their writing stories. Sam had written a children’s book called “I think I’m a Poof” , and had done work on the relationship between fathers and their gay sons. Isobel’s work created a magical lands where there were complex problems to be solved.

As for me? It was over fast, and I can’t remember all of what i said. But I do recall talking about why telling the stories of fatherhood is important, about how so many men (like me) have not roadmap through this business of being dad because the nature of fatherhood (and motherhood) is changing. I talked about the dilemmas that sharing your life – and the lives of your family – online can throw up, how I don’t use my kids’ names on this blog and how I doubt they’ll care about it in 20 years time.

I may have mentioned coffee a few times and how a habit of staying up late helps me write after the kids are asleep. I also paid homage to all the other dad bloggers out there, and how I’d learned from them about both fatherhood and writing.

I also I talked about talking and how men don’t talk enough, and why we should talk more, and I write to encourage them to speak up. I hope it’s getting to some people out there…. Even if it’s just my own son.

And then boom, it was over. There was another event on in the space, so we had to skidaddle fast. To the festival, thanks for the opportunity. To the audience, thanks for the attention. To mum, thanks for putting me up in Melbourne for the night!

The down side: Reservoir Dad was going to come, but he thought it started at 8:30pm not am…. whoops.

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