Welcome. It is a pleasure to stand before you to give this Author Talk. Libraries are home to me and there’s no place I’d rather be on my birthday. Thank you all for being on this yellow brick road journey with me.
I remember as a child, words and concepts flooded my brain. My imagination was active, colourful, filled with music and wonder.
In school, for assignments, I wrote down what was swirling around in my head. That’s when I was told I had no talent. One of my teachers put it this way “Eda, You’re not creative. You copy from others.” My parents thought me studying art was pointless because there is no money in art. For a long time, I hid my creativity within the confines of my cubicle as a 9-5 government employee.
We’d moved to the DC area in 1989 and shortly after I completed uni 9/11 attacks happened. The climate quickly changed towards patriotic extremism. I’d never felt at home in the US and certainly not in DC, where most people work for the government. At 23, I moved to the city where I was born, Istanbul. And what did I do there? Work for the US Government. I was employed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration to fill out paperwork and send cables and e-mails when I could squeeze in time between the office gossip and smoke breaks.
I started writing a book about the diplomats around me. They were an alien breed. What kinda person would come to a whole new country and expect it to be like what they grew up with? Turns out, me. 13 years in Oz and I still expect everyone to embrace the joys of a Turkish breakfast. In my defence, I do enjoy a vegemite toast.
The Land of Oz
In 2010, turning 30 was the perfect emotional tornado that picked me up, carried me away, and set me down in a strange wonderland full of colourful, strange characters.
I’d never seen anything like it. My brother lived there.
A week later, I met my partner. At a Toastmasters meeting.
He’d grown up in Lane Cove and had always wanted to return to raise his family here. We’ve been here nearly four years, or as Lane Covians would say three and three-quarters.
One of the first things I spotted in Lane Cove was a pomegranate tree in a front yard on Phoenix Street. I knocked on the door and the woman who opened kindly offered me a cutting to nurture and grow. It died.
However, her hospitality and willingness to help stayed with me. She was not like the people in my family who thought the things that interested me were frivolous. She was genuine and willing to help.
Through such kind interactions with the people in my neighborhood, I began to see that my bitter criticism of others came from my own insecurities.
I began to write and enjoy life. Last year I started Write Club where early each morning I’m joined by other writers on Zoom in writing our hearts out.
In Lane Cove, I’m finally home, in a safe place where my gifts can be seen and received with gratitude by others. With the help of mentors like Karen, our community chaplain and Cheryl, my mother-in-law, I feel free to enjoy life. I don’t need a fancy car, designer clothes, the prettiest face, or a perfect family to indulge in the luxurious perfumes of jasmine in the Spring and gardenias in the Summer.
I also found that writing “Live the Gift” led me home to myself. “Live the Gift” is the story of Lane Covians and other people around the world who work with their creativity. When I trust myself I can be anywhere in the world and I’ll find my people.
We All Need Encouragement
Now picture North Sydney, eight years ago with its high rises, cut-throat corporate culture. There was a writers’ group that convened at a library there. It was a place where stories were met with harsh criticism. A blood bath of red marked the death of many literary darlings. Writers were forced to submit their precious work to scrutiny, criticism. Everyone, whether they liked it or not, was pushed to be included in an anthology. When that book came out, the launch was attended by many people including local politicians. Great result right?
I was the convener of that writers’ group and I’m sad to say that I’m no longer friends with those writers and creatives. They want nothing to do with me. I pushed too hard, was too critical, careless with other people’s creations, too lazy to do my work – to write with heart and compassion.
I had to stare down that terrible evil within me when I first conceived the idea for “Live the Gift”. My fear of insignificance, failure, being average. My desperation to succeed at any cost made me scary like the wicked witch of the west.
I had to hug that witch, give her a warm cuppa, Tim Tams, tuck her into a snuggly blanket to keep her from hurting my loved ones. Especially my brother, who lives behind a screen, in the world of technology. He’s here tonight, and I want you to know bro, I don’t expect you to read my book. You’d never expect me to configure a network.
On reflection, I had to go through the pain of losing to be able to produce “Live the Gift” a book written with lightness. I wanted it to be ethical and cruelty-free.
No one’s creativity was harmed in the making of this book.
What I’m most proud of is that I was kind to myself while writing this book. When the days got cold and dark, I didn’t want to get out of my warm bed. I looked to nature for inspiration. Trees had shed their leaves. They looked skeletal yet I knew and trusted they would spring back to life. I rested easy trusting that my creativity would return. It did – with a little help from my friends Kath, Tanya, Julie and Bethany who understand how to work with the mysteries of the spirit. In essence, all I have to do is remember all the times my creativity was there for me, allow myself to rest, take time to breathe, get plenty of water, feel the ground beneath my feet and light a candle at my writing desk.
Seeds and Fruit
Like Mother Nature, we all hold incredible seeds of beauty within ourselves.
I believe that all of us have the courage to face our darkness, the wisdom to know that seeds grow in deep, dark soil and the strength to break through and embrace the light.
This book is the fruit of my learning to trust myself. The beautiful community before me is a result of honouring nature, which is, of course, human nature too.
Every day I aim to be like what the great Sufi poet Rumi described, a generous human being who shares her spirit.
“If you buy a pomegranate, buy one whose ripeness
has caused it to be cleft open
with a seed-revealing smile.
Its laughter is a blessing, for through its wide-open mouth
it shows its heart,
like a pearl in the jewel box of spirit.”
This is my friend Bridget, and she is giving me another pomegranate. Thank you. I promise not to kill it.
The heroine now stands here before you, knowing that life is full, and the people around her have incredible gifts to offer. I also realise that I’m creative, powerful even. I will overcome fear to bring creative ideas into the light of day, where they can be seen and enjoyed by family, friends, and the community.
Lane Cove. There’s no place like home.
Image credit to my beautiful artist friend, ceramicist Nicole Miranda. Check out her work on her website here.