(c) Melinda Smith 2011

Posts Tagged ‘First… Then…’

Reading in Sydney on September 13

In News on September 3, 2014 at 11:06 pm

(Cross-posting from my general poetry blog)

Apologies for the long silence. Long story. Poems to follow. Happy National Poetry Week !

On the good news side of things, I am pleased to announce that I will be giving a poetry reading in Sydney on Saturday evening 13th September, at the Stanley Street Gallery in Darlinghurst.

Reading and signing

It is a double reading with poet Nicola Bowery. Nicola will be reading from her brand new book married to this ground, and I will be reading from Drag down to unlock or place an emergency call (Pitt St Poetry 2013), and also from First… Then… (Ginninderra Press 2012) and from some unpublished new material.

The event kicks off at 5pm. There is a $15 cover charge which does include a glass of wine.

Here is a Facebook Event for the reading, and here is a link to the event details at City of Sydney What’s On.

The reading is organised by Poetry Alive, which is Nicola and her partner Harry Laing, who will MC. Should be a fun night, and the formal part of proceedings should all be over by 6.15pm, so you can start your evening in Darlinghurst and then kick on to wherever your other plans take you.

Love to see you there !

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Happy Autism Awareness Month (and some news)

In News on March 31, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Soon it will be April. A for April, A for Autism Awareness. In honour of which I am posting to this blog for the first time in many months.

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Autism Awareness

If you are new here, it may help to know that this blog is the online presence of a book of poems about autism called First… Then… (Ginninderra Press, 2012). Still available from the publisher, or by ordering it from your local independent bookstore.

Several of the poems in this book have been used to spread awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including the title poem, Autistic Acrostic, Brain weather, and more recently I prefer, which will soon appear in the conference program booklets for the inaugural Hong Kong ASD Conference. Tony Attwood will be one of the keynote speakers.

The book First… Then… itself also recently won an award.

I am very proud that the poems have been able to speak to people in this way. Now would be a good time to thank ArtsACT, my local arts funding body, for supporting me one day per week during 2011 while I wrote the poems.

A new journey

Image of blood glucose monitor and finger

Up to eight times a day…

Apart from giving a general update, I thought I would share something new that has recently happened on my family’s own ASD journey. My son with ASD, now a fine young man of almost ten years old, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes three weeks ago.

I am so proud of how he has coped with everything – the night in intensive care, the week in hospital, the needles, drips, tubes, beeping machines, round- the-clock finger pricks to check blood sugar, insulin injections, being away from home and out of routine, all of it. There was no time to prepare him for any of it, he was so critically ill by the time we worked out what was wrong with him we just had to ride it out.

Interestingly, we had been explaining away most of the diabetes symptoms as ASD and anxiety related (increased drinking of water, increase in toilet visits, night time incontinence, being ‘off his food’). The only one we couldn’t explain was the laboured breathing, but the first hospital we tried told us that was anxiety as well (!). Fortunately we got him in to another hospital the following day, and with the care of some very dedicated people he came back to us from the brink.

And now his life has changed forever: he will need insulin, several times a day, every day, to stay alive. Along with this comes up to eight finger prick blood sugar tests a day (two in the middle of the night) and some major changes to his diet, which was very restricted due to sensory sensitivities and NOT very diabetes-friendly.

Not surprisingly this is a challenging time for all of us. Props to all the families out there already managing ASD and complex medical needs, this is not a gig for the faint of heart !

So I thought I would share our story as a timely reminder to all folks living with ASD to be on the lookout for symptoms of physical illness masquerading as ASD behaviours. And also to keep advocating for ASD friendly treatment during a physical illness (we were able to have our son inhale nitrous oxide to calm him while several drips were inserted – without this we would have needed five nurses to hold him down). Not all doctors and nurses know how to perform procedures on a person with ASD without traumatising them.

On that note, I wish you a happy and healthy April.

(And no, I have no plans to write a book of Type 1 Diabetes poems. I have no time, for a start 😉 …)

First… Then… wins award

In News on December 13, 2013 at 9:45 am

I’m pleased to announce that last night First… Then…, the book of this blog, won the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards Poetry category, for books published in 2012. (The ACT is the Australian Capital Territory, where I live in Australia). Very happy !

The judges’ comments were : “[First…Then… is an] emotionally brave and truthful testimony of raising a child with autism, elegant poems across a range of diverse styles, unashamedly feminine, humorous and lively”

On this blog you can browse some of the poems in the book. If you like what you see, why not buy it ? A great Christmas / Holiday season present for someone you know who has autism in their life…

Image of award certificate and book sticker

Look ! A certificate ! And stickers !

Review of First… Then… by UK Autism Mummy Blogger

In News on March 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm

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First… Then… (the book of autism poems that started out on this blog) has been reviewed by the lovely Galina Varese at her blog, Chez Maximka.

I have never met Galina in person, but if I had the chance I would like to give her a hug and thank her for her close reading and generous comments. I wrote the book for people like her and her son, and I am so glad that she has been able to connect with the poems.

And the Gold Medal for Most Viewed Poem Goes To…

In News on September 8, 2012 at 10:45 pm

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It’s official : Social Stories for Neurotypical Adults #27: No Dogs Allowed has now overtaken First… Then… as the most viewed poem on this blog. I don’t know who is out there Facebooking, Tweeting or linking to it, but it has been a steady performer for many months now, and has now cracked over 2000 views. Thank you, whoever you are.

(2000 doesn’t sound that impressive, I know, but believe me, for a poetry blog, that’s a big number. Most of First… Then…’s almost 2000 views were achieved in one day, when it went totally viral in the autism community on Facebook (just over a year ago). Again, pretty unprecedented for a poetry blog. Most poetry *books* these days sell in the hundreds, unless written by Billy Collins, Wendy Cope or Les Murray. I love the internet.)

If you’re new to this blog, this is the part where I explain that both of the above poems are now in a book, also called First… Then…, which you can browse here and buy here. If you’d rather not pay shipping, why not wander into your local bookshop / bookstore and ask them to order you a copy from Ginninderra Press ?

Thanks for visiting. I am working on setting up some more readings from the book so watch this space for details (‘tour dates’). In the meantime, Keep Calm and Watch the Paralympics. And have a pleasant day.

Newspaper Review of First… Then…

In News on August 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm

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The following review of First… Then…, the book of this blog, appeared in The Canberra Times, Saturday August 25, 2012. It was written by Peter Pierce, editor of the Cambridge History of Australian Literature.

‘Another planet, other places’

The title and opening poem of Melinda Smith’s First…Then…, a collection of “poems from planet autism” is choppy, unnerved, but essential to what follows. It recounts her deepening realisation of the changes that will be wrought in her life now that she is the parent of an autistic son. The foreword has already revealed that ‘all the poems in this book are about life with autism’; has also dealt with how Smith has presumed to write not only of her only experiences as a mother, but ‘in the voice of a person with autism when I am not myself autistic.’ In ‘Brain Weather’, she writes of how she has to try to understand a brain whose frontal lobe was cauterised, leaving you ‘endless atomised local storms’. The child is given a voice in the striking poem ‘I prefer’, which lists some of those disquieting preferences : “serious illness to surprises/computers to my brother/reading number plates to Christmas morning”. In the brief compass of this book there is much else that is imaginatively and formally challenging. Consider some of her titles: ‘Love song of autistic husband’ (one of the most plaintive of these poems), ‘A prehistory of autism’, the brilliant and almost persuasive ‘All magpies are autistic’, and ‘Not the Botany Bay song’, which is tellingly subtitled ‘A sea shanty for ASD parents and carers’. There is no lyrical impulse at work in these poems. They are terse, concentrated, questing without false hope.”

I am actually pretty happy with that. Why not browse this blog – or buy the book – and make up your own mind 🙂

First… Then… Mini Book Tour

In News on July 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm

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First… Then… the book is currently on tour. I’ve been busy taking it to the streets of Melbourne. Read more here .

First… Then… autism poetry book on sale now

In News on April 10, 2012 at 11:55 pm

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To buy your copy from Ginninderra Press , scroll aaaaallll the way down to Melinda Smith, find my third book ‘First… Then…’ and click BUY NOW.

About the book

First…Then… is a short collection of 24 poems about autism, written by the mother of a son with ASD. The poems explore many different voices from planet autism – from verbal and non-verbal autistic children, to autistic men and women, to parents, carers and siblings. Some are moving, some are harrowing, and some are laugh-out-loud funny. Together they provide a unique window into a much misunderstood facet of the human experience.

The writing of the poems in First…Then… was supported by an ArtsACT new projects grant during 2011.  During that time the poems were drafted, redrafted, posted on this blog, and Tweeted and Facebooked to within an inch of their lives. Some of them were also published in other places (Tony Attwood’s website, Scottish Autism’s blog, Aspie in the Family, Quadrant Magazine, Blackmail Press, Geek Mook and ACT Carers’ Circle, to name a few – thanks to everyone involved for their support).

Now the poems are between two covers and ready to make their way out into the real world. Maybe they’re coming to your house ? I hope so.

PS: You can take a sneak peek inside the book by browsing around this blog. Start here. Enjoy.

PPS If you’re reading this before 12 April 2012 and you feel like coming to a launch or a reading, you’re invited ! Details here.

Book launch details for First… Then…

In News on March 28, 2012 at 11:04 am

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Hello there.First… Then…, the book of this blog (a book of poems about autism), is on sale now from Ginninderra Press (scroll aaaaallll the way down to Melinda Smith, find my third book ‘First… Then…’ and click BUY NOW.

One launch down (thanks to all who came), one to go, plus a reading.

Launch Two – for the literary community and anyone else who could’t make it to Launch One – is on Wed 11 April, at 6.30 for 7pm, at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop in Alinga St Civic (in the Melbourne Building opposite the GPO). Eminent poet and novelist Alan Gould will be doing the honours at this one. Light refreshments provided, buy your own drinks at the bar.

Love to see you there !

The night before, I’m doing a poetry reading at the Gods Cafe, on the ANU campus, from 8 pm on Tuesday 10 April. Also reading (but not about autism) will be P S Cottier and Russell Erwin

About the book

First…Then… is a short collection of 24 poems, mostly dramatic monlogues in various voices. The poems focus on the experience of living with autism, but you do not need to know or be an autistic person to enjoy this book. The poems are by turns moving, harrowing and laugh-out-loud funny, and provide a unique window into a much misunderstood facet of the human experience.

The writing of the poems in First…Then… was supported by an ArtsACT new projects grant during 2011.  You can take a sneak peek inside the book by browsing around this blog.