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January 2017 » Marisa Wikramanayake

A Guide to effective activism in Australia in 2017 Borne out of a brainstorming session online as to what we can all effectively do

Share this post on effective activism around. This list of the things we can do right now came out of a brainstorming session online where people were despairing a bit and I thought creating a post would render it more available to the public. If you have more ideas on effective activism to share or want to critique an idea listed here (I am not an expert on these things), leave a comment and I will add it with credit. Some of these will have different options to cater for the run up to the WA election.

Before you read this post, please read this one by Gilbert Caluya on the current attitudes involved within activism in Australia and what you should not be doing or thinking if you don’t want to trip yourself up as you go. It’s the must read before reading the rest of this list, I insist.

1. Find out who your local representatives are. 

    Depending on the issue, this may mean your list of people to call/email/both might include a local govt rep, a state parliament rep, a federal parliament rep and a cabinet minister. 

2. Call & email them

The thinking is that the representatives care about their salaries which depends on getting re-elected so they need to think about pleasing the kingmakers in their parties and the majority opinion of their constituency. So make them realise what the majority opinion is by contacting them in groups. Contact those who directly represent you. They don’t care about constituents in other areas with other representatives. 

 If not in the run up to a state/local election, then pick one issue, organise around it, join any groups already existing who are organised around the issue and then call and email your list of people and ask them clearly to a) respond to you and b) to act in a certain way (ie: oppose a bill etc)

2b: if in the run up to a state/local election, you may get away with mentioning several issues but still keep it to two or three and make it a coordinated effort. Go for the things that again have easy actions for your members to act upon such as opposing Roe 8 and the sale of Western Power. If in WA, mention that you would like to see some action or you will have to vote for One Nation (not that you would/wouldn’t – I personally don’t recommend it but hey your choice) and/or the Greens.

Issues that we need action on: Roe 8, indigenous rights, centrelink debt crisis, welfare funding cuts, asylum seeker policies and detention centres, racism and racist ideologies, unemployment issues, defunding of WA literary arts sector, copyright laws and PIRs, the sale of Western Power, expense rorting, WA’s state debt and the money spent on Skyworks instead of on infrastructure and services etc…


3. Talk to local groups before calling

They may be able to help you with what would be the most advantageous or easiest thing to ask your representatives to do. They may have scripts you can use for emailing and calling. So check in with them before calling or emailing.

4. Once you have emailed/called keep them accountable

Report on who responded and how. If they were nasty to you, record that and share it across social media. Keep calling if they do not respond.

5. When calling be as polite as possible and calm.

You have the right to hang up if they are abusive. You have the right to report that abuse. Try to remain calm as possible. Hang up the moment you do not feel safe. Record it if possible.

6. Divulge group info only if group agrees and you feel safe to do so.

If asked about being part of a group and you have permission and feel safe to do so, then say you are. Otherwise, state that you are an individual and that you are horrified at the current stance on said issue.

7. Cover the rallies and flood social media.

Go to rallies and film and photograph what goes on and pass it around on social media. Pass anything newsworthy on to the reporters you know – you can find a list of them on my Twitter account.

8. If you can, then post.

If you have the ability to post about these issues on a blog or page, then do so.  Share your footage of events and posts on the pages of politicians and parties and tag them in your tweets about the issues.

9. Follow the campaign trail. 

Turn up to campaign events for your local, state and federal representatives and ask them the questions about the issues. Do not carry the signs if you are the person wanting to ask a question. Ask the question as many times as you need to and do not let go of the mic if given one and ask the representative why they won’t answer. Get someone else to film it and share the footage of the representative if they do not respond. Hold them accountable – as your representative they have to pay attention to you, they have to listen to your concerns, they have to answer your questions. If you are polite and firm, they cannot say that they have been harassed by you. You have just been persistent.

10. Keep in mind whose land you are on.

Always center the voices of indigenous people in your effective activism please. When possible use the indigenous language local to where you are in your daily life.

11. Go to them.

Go to district offices of representatives and ask for a meeting. Report on social media if people refuse to meet with you. Report what they say to you.

12. Talk to the media.

Organise group press conferences outside the district office if the response is unsatisfactory or they have not responded. State your concerns to the media and hold your representatives accountable.

13. Use encryption wisely.

If you want to coordinate things on your phone and are concerned about security, please use Signal to do so. Signal is your best option, they cannot give info away because they don’t record it at all and if you start using Signal for all your messaging then no one can tell who you are talking to by when you use it. So make it your default messaging app. Do not use Whatsapp, Google chat or FB chat.

14. Do not lock your phone with a fingerprint.

Put a pincode on your phone before attending rallies and events. You cannot be forced to divulge a passcode. If possible leave the phone at home or turn off geolocation.

15. Look after yourself.

If you need to take a break for self care then do so. If you cannot attend in person, find other ways to be involved. Always try to do this in a group of like-minded individuals. Tell people where you are going and when you will be back in touch and when to get worried if they don’t hear from you.

16. Be vocal.

Talk to your friends and family about what, how and why you are doing what you do. They may not join you but perhaps they will call someone or vote differently. Pass on the office numbers of representatives and let people know if they are refusing to answer the phone etc.

17. You can be quiet in your effective activism too.

Join a group or organisation to work behind the scenes. If you can, volunteer to work with parties that you feel you can support. Figure out how best you can use your knowledge and skills and go do that.

These are all things that you are legally allowed to do. None of it constitutes harassment. None of it is anything you should be locked up for.

A lot of ideas about effective activism came from this guide to effective activism in the US. This is another one to what individuals can do and here is another about self care. If you have more ideas then please add them in the comments and I will add them to this list as we go.

9 unexpected helpful lessons learnt as a freelance writer in 2016 A long list of the things I should probably not do

Mentoring and mentorships for writers

I think it is important to reflect on what lessons you have learnt so far from time to time especially when it comes to the business side of being a freelance writer. I think it is also important to acknowledge that some lessons you tend to have to keep learning over and over till they stick in your brain. And some things are easier for others to get straight away but tend to take you forever and vice versa. But in case this helps, here is a list of what I learnt in 2016, proving yet again that I did not know everything when I started out.  Continue reading9 unexpected helpful lessons learnt as a freelance writer in 2016 A long list of the things I should probably not do

7 useful lessons I learnt from an unexpected laptopless week The experiment that I didn't exactly sign up for

A lesson can show up at the oddest moment. Over the Christmas break, my laptop died. It was eight years old and the battery stopped working and the power cord no longer functioned well when plugged in.

After having upgraded the hinges, the battery, the memory and several other parts of the laptop over the years, I knew it was time to get a new one.

I generally try to hold on to laptops and technology for as long as possible – I don’t want to waste by getting new stuff as it comes out for the sake of getting new stuff if you know what I mean. That’s just not my thing.

So I got online and after much huffing and double checking and grieving for the previous laptop (I tend to get attached) I ordered a new one. It was meant to arrive the same day that I got back to Perth from overseas – the 11th of January.

The key word there was “meant”. It didn’t arrive.

After a lot of back and forth between HP and I, it finally did come. Yesterday. A week after it was first due.

A week seems a short time. But I had planned client related work, blogging and all sorts of other things for that week that I was back. And so I had to manage laptopless/computerless for a week with no word for most of it as to whether it would be a week or a month or more that would have I have to do so before it turned up.

Very #firstworldproblems, definitely. But I learned a lot during those days.

Lesson 1: You can do a hell of a lot within two hours and you may only have two hours.

Why two hours? Because in Western Australia, you only get two hours per day to use the computers at any library that you are a member of. So if you have clients wondering when you are going to get back to them, you have to plan your day to fit client work into two hour slots as you move from library to library.

Lesson 2: You can do all your emailing, skyping and social media on your phone.

Anything that doesn’t require a computer and can be done quickly, do on your phone. Seriously, it’s easier.

Lesson 3: Plan your time according to the technology.

First, if you have access to computers that cannot connect to the internet but can work, do all the typing, all the things you can do on them that don’t need an online connection immediately for and put it all on to an USB. Then, go to the library and use the computers with internet access.

Lesson 4: Your past self can come in handy.

Past Marisa created blog posts in advance, social media posts in advance, a ton of things in advance that just then worked without Present Marisa even remembering till something pinged on the phone. I was worrying a bit about the blog till things pinged and it turned out that I had planned a few posts in advance after all.

Lesson 5: Store stuff in the cloud.

I put a few important documents in the cloud, in online storage and that has helped me several times and it did so here as well. I could start working on strange computers and I could set up the new laptop as soon as it arrived.

Lesson 6: You learn what is important in terms of work.

What was important was the ability to apply for work and the ability to find jobs and the ability to complete client work. Those were my top priorities work wise, not the blog, not social media. And it was worth knowing that because I want to know what to keep going and what to work on better.

Lesson 7: You learn what is important in the rest of your life.

I organised my papers and my desk, cleaned things, spent time with friends and it was all good. And I realised that I had not made a lot of time for my hobbies in my life so I decided to do more of that. And yes I did worry a bit about my delivery at the same time throughout that but I still got to do all that. Because I wasn’t behind a laptop.

And when the laptop arrived and I had set it up, there was also a sense of relief because I realised, yes my previous laptop was awesome to have lasted for so long and there is nothing wrong with bar its power issues but a new laptop is going to help me do a lot of stuff faster. It’s a faster model and I am doing a lot of things now that I wasn’t eight years ago and if I can get work done faster then I have more time to do other things. The stress of worrying about whether I would have enough power, if it would overheat or not, if I would have enough time – stress I didn’t even know I had – it’s all sort of gone out the window right now.

Over to you

So has this ever happened to you? What did you do? How long have you ever had a piece of tech for? What are your old faithfuls in terms of devices? Tell me in the comments because I want to know if I am the only one who wants to get the maximum use out of a piece of tech before I get rid of it. And am I the only one who names their laptops?

Because I want you to help me name it.

My last laptop was Xerxes. I have an HP Pavilion and I name my laptops after historical and mythological figures from Greek and Roman Civilisation where the names starts with the first letter of the model. So I am looking for a female name starting with P.

I put a call out on Twitter and this was the result:

Some others also suggested Pallas Athene/a and Persephone. I am hoping for a name that’s easy to say and one that isn’t immediately obvious.

Polyhymnia is the muse of sacred poetry, Phantasos is the spirit of fantasy, Psyche is soul, Providentia is forethought, Porrima is the future, Peitho is persuasion and Poros is the spirit of accomplishment and expediency.

I am still none the wiser as to what to choose so if you like one of these names or have a suggestion, please let me know in the comments.

Want to stay in touch?

My top 10 posts in 2016 It is very interesting to see what you like to read

I'm blogging this by Jhayne via Flickr (additional text by me)

It is a fact of life that whenever you try to plan your life you end up dropping something at some point – life intervenes and you have to. You have to prioritise. In 2016 it was this blog. But it is interesting to see what my top 10 posts were for 2016 in terms of how many people viewed/read them. I got views despite not being as active as I wanted to be on the blog. I am hoping to change that this year. It is also interesting to see what people read and to try and unpick why that was the case.

PS: All headings are clickable and will take you to the posts in question.

Continue readingMy top 10 posts in 2016 It is very interesting to see what you like to read

52 writing prompts in 2017: Week 2

I need writing prompts. I am planning to write 52 short stories this year. A short story per week.

Some will be terrible. A few won’t be. But the more I write, the better I will be at crafting a short story.

There’s 52 weeks worth of writing prompts for those of you who also want to write short or long pieces and are struggling. Use them as themes/first lines/plot points/endings. It is up to you.

Leave a comment if you end up using any of these and if you are feeling up to it, please share so we can read your awesome work too. And if you have a cool prompt then let us know.

The girl who watches everyone else in the tax department's waiting room.

3 amazing Australian authors I read in 2016 and absolutely loved Because I like to document moments that make me happy... like books...

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

I tend to stumble upon my books (matters not if it is work by Sri Lankan or Australian authors) and I started young. We have a bookcase in our house that spans the length of the downstairs study. It is mostly filled with modern day thrillers and what I refer to as airport novels – Jeffery Archer, Frederick Forsythe, Connelly, Koontz, Deaver. John Grisham. Those books. A smaller bookcase housed the encyclopedia set and the treasure trove of Agatha Christie novels. In the bookshelf for us kids, there were Enid Blytons and Carolyn Keenes, topped up by regular birthday and Christmas gifts. I read the classics – the cornerstone foundation of Western Civilisation Literature. And by some mere miracle I didn’t, as so often can happen, I didn’t stop reading there.

I had a desire to read more and so I did. I wanted more crime fiction, so I looked for more authors and found Marsh and Greenwood and others. An aunt gave me Tolkien and in an university in the US I found Piers Anthony and Robert Jordan. I tend to stumble across most of my books – very rarely are they recommended personally to me by others. I found Calvino via my current partner for example and it meant the world that someone said “This is a book you might like” and was right.

So part of why I love books is the serendipitous nature of how I find them. My current partner has a list he uses – out of a book entitled 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. It is helpful to have a list but then I peep over his shoulder and realise that perhaps one should be a little bit wary of such big canonical lists – there were important books that weren’t listed that I thought were worth reading. A list reflects the bias of the listmaker and no one person can read so widely but that doesn’t mean that one should not try.

And so in a few days I will post my reading list for 2017 and ask you to add your suggestions to it but in the meantime here are my top three stumbled upon and serendiptous book finds by Australian authors that I got to read in 2016 and that I loved. If I listed all of them we may be here for quite some time.

Cover of the book Portable curiosities by Australian author Julie Koh

1. Julie Koh’s Portable Curiosities

What is it: It’s a collection of short stories, Julie Koh’s second book and it is hilarious.

Why I loved it: Because it is absurdist and funny and there are recognisable digs and jokes and send ups of groups and people (hipsters and yuppies for example), because I can see how Julie gets angry at certain things and then writes them into her stories where she makes a sharp, cutting point via surreal humour. There was recognition of shared experiences and ideas and thoughts and reactions to everyday events. There was utter disbelief at some of the premises for the short stories and sometimes downright annoyance and envy that she had hit upon some of the best ideas I have ever seen for short stories  by Australian authors – ones that I wished I had thought of first. And I felt like colour had exploded in my face while I was reading because apparently that’s what reading surrealist work seems like to my brain. Don’t be afraid that you won’t understand anything because you will. You will understand it, you will be in total awe and shock and you will be laughing like a loon.

How did I find it: The inaugural Australian Short Story Festival where I got to meet Julie as well.

Who is Julie: Julie Koh is an awesome writer who isn’t entirely certain if she, herself, is actually real and existing in real life. No, really. Her website is called The Fictional Julie Koh. She is also in the Margaret River Press Short Story Anthology for 2016: Shibboleth which I will be reviewing soon once I get back to Perth.

2. The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

What is it: Anna Spargo-Ryan’s debut novel about a mother’s grief at the loss of her child.

Why I loved it: At first you think, oh dear, oh no, heavens above, how can I read about this sort of thing and then you start reading it and get sucked in by the language. Anna moves back and forth in the story, recounting a mother’s current experience of dealing with grief and her backstory in childhood of dealing with her own mother’s issues. You are left to watch curiously as she reacts to how her newfound friends and neighbours try to help her partner and family as she attempts to recover from her loss. You actually feel the sense of despair and futility, the feelings as they come and go of being fed up, of just not wanting to do anything even when others desperately want you to do something. You feel the irritation and inability to explain when others around you feel that you can’t be in a certain state of mind unless you are doing something they believe will indicate that. Which goes to show how amazing Anna is as a writer. You can read my much more indepth review of The Paper House as well.

How did I find it: I think I was asked to review it. It blew my mind.

Who is Anna: Anna is a writer, social media genius for hire and lives with a dog and a cat who is so cool he has his own Twitter account and has previously been in the news. She, herself, is pretty cool and is working on a second book right now.

A few right thinking men by Australian author Sulari Gentill

3. Sulari Gentill’s A Few Right Thinking Men

What is it: The first book in a crime fiction series set in 1920s Australia. With a ton of political history included.


Yeah, what was not to love? Also the cover. Look at the covers for all these books. They are amazing. These are books that will NEVER leave my shelf. Well, unless I send The Paper House to my mother which I actually might do. But I love that the main characters are artists and bohemians. I like that Sulari Gentill actually is an artist herself and does her own covers. I like that she brings in other POC characters and that she knows her history well enough to have it sit in the background and form a major cohesive part of the story but in a way that doesn’t require any effort from you. You as a reader do not need to wade through it to understand it. It is a rich tapestry and it is easily understandable. Her plots and subplots are intricate. I understand the desire to be left the damn hell alone with your friends to create as you would and to not have to try to escape potential suitable matches arranged for you. I started picking up more books in the series and am planning to read them in order and I can vouch for the fact that as you go through the series, various family tensions get slowly resolved. There is a place of understanding and compromise that is reached.

There is also a bit of heartbreak, unrequited love and such things forming the subplot but all this is carefully handled through the protagonist’s squad of friends – and a real squad they are, knowing what to mention and what not to and wading into fights to back up and rescue one another. It is a lovely series and it makes you feel as if you are right there in the midst of it all, trying to prevent people from going undercover and doing foolhardy risky things.

How did I find it: I saw it in a bookstore because I always browse the crime fiction section. The cover got me. Then I raved about it and Pantera Press told me that Sulari drew the cover art.

Who is Sulari: Sulari wields not just pen but also pencil and paintbrush and does all her own covers as outed to me by her publisher Pantera Press and lives in South Australia I believe with two rambunctious kids and if I recall correctly tends to be some kind of jam making queen. Possibly I  made that last bit up but who knows. I have swapped my sugar addiction for this series now.

Who were your favourite Australian authors in 2016?

What are the serendipitous finds of new Australian authors that 2016 brought you? How do you find new books to read? What did you discover that you loved? Have you read any of these books and did you like them?

Freelance writing plans for 2017 Or how I am going to be too ambitious and shoot myself in the foot

If you have read the post on how my freelance writing went this past year, you would see that I got quite a bit lucky but also found a lot of room for improvement.

The thing is, you can’t tell me that I need to improve on something because then I go get pen and paper and start planning to become better at whatever said sucky thing is. And I kind of go overboard.

I would like to share this process with you so you can see how damn stupid my brain is at times and smart at other times. As my sister says “We don’t know how someone so bright can also be so dumb.”

This is how.

The first thing I did? I decided that I do not focus on my writing enough. I need to be more disciplined with it. It needs to come first. The problem with me and priorities is that all the different parts of my life are important. But writing, creative writing and to another extent freelance writing, took a back seat in 2016.

And you know, to some of you, that would be an ok thing for me to do right now – my creative writing isn’t making me money and I do need to sock some cash away for awhile so hey maybe non-paid work should be on the backburner?

But then I went and volunteered a ton instead. And found myself a boyfriend. And a semblance of a social life.

So something has to change. And don’t worry, boyfriend, it isn’t you. :-*

Continue readingFreelance writing plans for 2017 Or how I am going to be too ambitious and shoot myself in the foot

Maudiegirl and the von Bloss Kitchen by Carl Muller

Maudiegirl and the von Bloss Kitchen by Carl Muller

Maudiegirl and the von Bloss Kitchen by Carl MullerThe first author I read this year is not an Australian female writer but a Sri Lankan male one.  It was Carl Muller and his book Maudiegirl and the von Bloss Kitchen. I thought it would be prudent to try and read more POC authors this year as well as try to understand a bit more about my own English language literary background and read more Sri Lankan authors.

Carl Muller can come across as crude. His stories about the Burghers (the mixed race descendants of European colonisers and native Sri Lankans) feature life in the raw as it was in what seems to be early 2oth century life in Boteju Lane with all its working class inhabitants and their rather incredible and hilarious escapades. But there is a honesty here – I cannot claim to know if every detail is reflective of the truth of what it was like to live at such a time in Ceylon but there is some truth here that this was life and life was harsh and tough and anything could and would blindside you at any minute. There is some truth to the fact that people gossiped, that people were in and out of each other’s kitchens, that everyone knew everyone else’s business for the most part.

And there are other things that ring true – the desire of the Burgher mother to cook incessantly and feed everyone, the ability for Maudiegirl to be seen as the font of all knowledge on all things domestic, to be able to solve problems and to be capable of terrifying the living daylights of people when required. The squabbles and fights, the yelling of even the smallest bits of information, the sarcastic quips back, the answers to most problems, the attitudes and ideas about other people – they all ring true, they all match up to stories I have heard from my parents’ generation about how they grew up. And it reminds you how fast Ceylon became Sri Lanka, how fast modernity crept in, how fast life changed that people now rarely know their neighbours, rarely know what is happening in their own lane. Carl Muller deals in nostalgia, but not a genteel respectable nostalgia – one that’s raw and honest and shows you everything including the dirty laundry… because that’s how it was back then.

I read this with a bit of shock but a lot of laughter – laughter at recognising things and people I knew or had heard about in these characters.

Maudiegirl is the matriarch who solves everything, the linchpin around which the von Bloss family revolves, with an answer for everything and the first defense of the family realm and a good heart that takes in but a firm demeanor that stands for no nonsense.

Should you read this book? I think yes but be mindful that some things will not be to your taste, some things will shock you and perhaps the best way to think about that is to assume that those bits are a mix of a) being of their time and b) something with which the author chooses specifically to engage, perhaps too much for most readers.

What you will enjoy, I hope, is the slang, the humour, the hilarity of the people and their escapades and the variety of characters, all so Sri Lankan in a way that I am in awe of how Muller has been able to capture them so well. This is his fourth book about the von Bloss family – the others are The Jam Fruit Tree, Yakada Yaka and Spit and Polish.

Title: Maudiegirl and the von Bloss Kitchen
Author: Carl Muller
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Literary fiction

Buy a copy for your Kindle here. You can also follow along with what I am reading via Goodreads.

52 weeks of writing prompts Week 1

I need writing prompts. I am planning to write 52 short stories this year. A short story per week.

Some will be terrible. A few won’t be. But the more I write, the better I will be at crafting a short story.

I used to love writing short stories during English Essay periods in school. We had half an hour and a teacher would pick a topic or give us a few to choose from. You could write an essay but I chose to write a story for most of them. Somewhere along the line I lost that.

Perhaps I need the blackboard and the list of topics. Prompts. So here’s 52 weeks worth of prompts for those of you who also want to write short or long pieces and are struggling. Use them as themes/first lines/plot points/endings. It is up to you.

Leave a comment if you end up using any of these and if you are feeling up to it, please share so we can read your awesome work too.

The woman who puts her mark on everything.

The best Australian books that 7 Australian writers loved in 2016 And it then starts unfurling outwards in a chain reaction

Cover of the book Portable curiosities by Julie Koh

I wanted to write about some of the best books by other Australian writers that I had read and been blown away by during 2016.

And then I thought – why not ask them who they read in 2016 that was amazing AND an Australian author? So that then I could have a list of books to then go read myself in 2017?

So I did. I yelled out into the Twittersphere:

And true enough, over the next few days, amidst the chaos of the holiday season be they celebrating or not, they responded. Continue readingThe best Australian books that 7 Australian writers loved in 2016 And it then starts unfurling outwards in a chain reaction