J M Yates discusses the writing of her memoir ‘The Vine Bleeds’

The Vine Bleeds, Brolga Publishing 2015. This is the text of speech J M Yates delivered at the launch of her book at the Burwood Campus of Deakin University on 28 November 2015. 

cropped-vine-bleeds_the_cover__brolga1I never intended to write a book. However two things steered me down the path. After my mother died, I realised how little I knew about her earlier life. I found some writing she had done when she was at U3A and it gave me some insight to her thoughts, but there was so much more I now wanted to know. It saddened me that this wouldn’t be possible. I didn’t want my daughters to feel the same. Secondly, I was having difficulty with my own life and sought professional help. My counsellor suggested that when memories surfaced, I should jot them down in a journal – just a few lines. Doing this was quite liberating. Once it was on paper it just didn’t seem so bad. Lacking confidence with my writing I attended a Saturday afternoon writing class which I enjoyed. Then I enrolled at Holmesglen TAFE and 5 years later I obtained my diploma. I’d come a long way from the person who found writing a letter difficult. While I was at Holmesglen the assignments prompted me to consider working on a book. The little snippets in my journals, which were so badly written, became paragraphs which became chapters.

Then my grandchildren started arriving. Still most unhappy with the way the book was written, I popped it in the bottom drawer. For the next seven years I helped out looking after babies. What a magical time. I had to work when my daughters were young and wasn’t able to be with them as much as I wanted. It was really enjoyable having this time with my grandchildren. Eventually, I pulled that book out of the bottom drawer.

One of my dreams when I was young was to go to university. That, and why I didn’t go, is in the book. I decided if I wanted to write this book well, I needed to obtain skills I didn’t have so I applied to Deakin University as a very mature age student. Over the next three years I used parts of my book in some of my assignments. Workshopping was a large part of all writing assignments. I agonised airing my life to my tutors and fellow students in class. When my writing was being workshopped I’d sit and squirm. The students didn’t hold back, some liked my writing some didn’t. However, I took on board what they, and my tutors, said and these sections of my book improved substantially.

I continued on with my studies and finally obtained a Batchelor of Arts, majoring in Creative and Professional writing. The book still wasn’t finished and needed a lot of work. After graduating, I applied what I had learnt and then, Jo, one of my past tutors, assessed my manuscript. This resulted in another six months work. Thanks Jo. The voice wasn’t right in places, chapters needed to be moved around and so on. Finally I felt the book was ready to be edited. Stu, another of my past tutors, took on the job and for the next three months more changes took place. Both Jo and Stu are here today. I am so ever grateful to each of you, because without your help the book wouldn’t be what it is today. Finally, two years after I graduated, it was finished, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to get it published. Today, it has being launched by yet another of my tutors, Karen. I would like to thank Karen and Deakin for the help and support I’ve received with this launch. So you see, Deakin has had quite an impact on the completion of this memoir.

The book itself, set in Melbourne, spans fifty years or so from the 1940’s. It commences when I was four and ends soon after the death of my mother. Although the book contains domestic violence and highlights the contradictions it presents, the main focus is the effect on children subjected to it, and the subsequent life choices they make.

The results of both physical and emotional abuse affect the way you feel about yourself. Seeing your mother assaulted affects the way a person trusts, their self-confidence and self-esteem. It becomes their reality and it terrorises them. When you are emotionally abused yourself, you come to believe you are less than you are and it changes your life. So my life has been a mixture of vulnerability and strength. I read somewhere that ‘the little kid that lives inside us won’t leave us alone until we give them a voice.’ I’ve given the little kid a voice and I now know it’s not what happens to us, that matters, it’s what we do about it

My brother and I embarked on different journeys and lead vastly different lives. Although sad in places the book definitely has its lighter moments that will make the reader smile. It shows the repercussions of the silly errors of judgement my brother and I made. It also illustrates that everyone’s journey is different and that difficult situations can create positive outcomes.

Domestic abusers have a perceived sense of entitlement and as Rosie Batty said they view women and children as possessions they control. This was certainly the case in my childhood home. It has taken courage to tell my story and confront my past but it has released me and allowed me to rest my mind. I’m now in an extremely happy place with a wonderful supportive and cohesive family. I hope you enjoy reading my memoir.

 – J M Yates


For information on how to purchase The Vine Bleeds go to https://thevinebleeds.wordpress.com

Karen Le Rossignol Launches ‘The Vine Bleeds’ by J M Yates

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