‘Apply Within’ by Alice

The following tiny thought is penned by the ever talented Alice Wild Williams. You can read more of her delightful musings here. Everything she does is wonderful and you are welcome.

My grandmother used words the way some people use rusty old bathtubs to grow vegetables: not really for their intended purpose, but with a useful kind of beauty. If she thought my dad was being cheeky she’d say he “got away with words.”  To her, “first thing to hand” was something important, treasured. Something she’d save in a fire. “That picture of you on the boat when you were little, watching the whales? It’s my first thing to hand.” Most people thought it was an impediment from learning English last, after Spanish and Japanese, but it wasn’t.

Language lived in the cumulonimbus of cigarette smoke that hung above her head. She could shape or disappear behind either whenever she wanted.

“Apply within,” is how she would command us to summon courage. When we fell over and skin peeled bloody from our knees,or when the raincloud settled in her chest for good, and we stood by her bed and took turns holding her hands that felt like kindling.

Years later these mangled turns of phrase show up when I least expect them. For my birthday, a well intentioned boyfriend woke me in the freezing pre-dawn for a balloon ride. I am completely terrified of untrustworthy flight. Planes, sure. Planes have maths and magnets and science and lots of people in uniforms. Wicker baskets suspended by fire and silk do not.

Two sounds can be so far removed from each other but sound exactly the same. Rain that begins like a slow applause, a heart that volleys like a game of tennis. The balloon breathed out just like a whale, the silence between exhalations as quiet as the space between the stars. We rose with the sun. I clung to a basket that felt like kindling, and all I could think was Apply Within.

curled up inside a boat

Haunting extract from Randa Jarrar’s essay in The Rumpus:

“Boaters,” I’ve heard young Arab-Americans call their parents and their parents’ friends in Dearborn, Michigan. “Ten years in America,” the younger Boston bomber had once tweeted, “I want out.”

When they finally found him, out of all the places he could have hidden in Boston, he was curled up inside a boat.

tender is the night

“You will walk differently alone, dear, through a thicker atmosphere, forcing your way through the shadows of chairs, through the dripping smoke of the funnels. You will feel your own reflection sliding along the eyes of those who look at you. You are no longer insulated; but I suppose you must touch life in order to spring from it.” 
―    F. Scott Fitzgerald,    Tender Is the Night

here, take it and smash it.

First I thought this is pretty funny, being broken up with on the day the world was meant to end (dec 21) but then I was all like no, nope, this sucks and I sprained my jaw from vomiting rather violently. I then tried to think it wasn’t all bad. After all, haven’t I done this to people before? Ripped their heart directly from its socket and played hacky sack with it? Surely this is all just a cruel bit of irony after this exact guy left his girlfriend of three years for me, I mean isn’t that how it works, they run you over with their karma? And hey, it’s not all bad, I mean it’s only a few days before Christmas, surely all that food’s going to help plus people, alcohol, presents! Apart from an inability to keep food down, the whisky and 80% moonshine-esque alcohol provided by my uncles, definitely helped numb something, so it wasn’t all bad, except that it was bad, all bad with the Christmas and the babies and the happiness and I just wanted to stab it all and can someone please explain how and why uncle Fred and aunty Magdalina are still together even though they hate each other with a venemous, unrivalled hatred that has withstood the test of time?

But then! Alas! Right before New Year’s Eve, he decides it was all just a big mistake, let’s forget it ever happened, here are some male tears (can’t say no to them!) and let’s just move on together shall we and forget this ever happened? Onwards and upwards, together we’ll fly into the sun and we’ll go back to normal and move to Germany and hey ‘wouldn’t it be cool to get married? What? Why are you looking at me like that? Oh because I tried to break up with you two weeks ago, that’s true, sorry’. And I had no say in the matter. I wish I had said no. I wish I had said ‘fuck off’, maybe I did, but did it matter? There is no willpower in this field of dreams, and so I cried and was happy and here we are now, two months later, on Valentine’s Day and I am consoling him on the fact that he is breaking up with me for the second time because he’s confused, even though he loves me and misses me and can’t live without me quote unquote. It’s very tough for him you see, to be the arsehole the second time running. There there. Everything will be okay. In hell.

So here I am, feeling very much like my stomach has been used as a punching bag. I don’t know why I’m writing this, maybe to feel something that isn’t sheer and agonising grief but you know what, it’s not working, not even a little bit, not even at all.

Happy Valentine.

a recipe for dreaming



Before I could read I often tried to circumnavigate my mother towards toy stores. The moment I learnt how to read, books became my entire world. My mother had to change her route to try and avoid the local Dymocks store. It was here she spent so much money buying me books. I would hold up a book in my tiny hands and she would give me the ‘frown smile’ (where her eyes are frowning in disapproval at yet another book but she would be smiling to say she’ll give in anyway because my mum is the kindest, most generous person I’ve ever known).

She had always loved the author Bryce Courtenay so she would read The Power of One to me. If bile rises to my throat and tears well in my eyes when I hear of racism, it is all my mother’s doing. Her emotional character taught me so much about love.


One day I came home from school to find my mother excited, holding her car keys. Bryce Courtenay was at our local Dymocks signing copies of his new book. I was shocked. We didn’t have time to pick up a book for him to sign, so mum said I could pick any book I wanted and she would buy it for me. I picked up the one that spoke to me immediately.

A Recipe for Dreaming

And she let me buy two books. I waited in line. When my turn came, the lovely man was so thrilled to have an 8-year-old fan, exclaiming I had to be one of his youngest. He was jovial and excited by every person. He made me come around the table to sit next to him and he asked me what on earth a young thing like me was doing visiting an old thing like him. My mum said I wanted to be an author, just like him. That I would write stories in my notebooks. She told him how much I loved his book The Power of One with a big smile on her face, which meant that she had loved it too, but didn’t think she had any right to say so.

He declared with resolute determination, ‘Sheree, I will help you become a famous author one day. Bring your stories to me and I will help you publish them. You’re going to be famous one day, I can tell’.

And so he wrote in my book, The Potato Factory: ‘To Sheree, the Famous Author’.

And then in a recipe for dreaming, ‘To Sheree, the Dreamer.’


My older brother texted me just hours ago asking me if I had heard about Bryce dying of terminal cancer, with only months to live. I had not. (It was a big deal that I had met him at such a young age…my family saw it as a sign). My brother told me I had better finish that novel I had promised to Bryce.

The soul-crushing weight of my unfinished novel impacted me and my tears flooded the taxi I was in on the way home. The eight-year-old in me wants so desperately to finish writing it, chipping away at it every day, in order to show it to Bryce before he leaves us and fulfil a promise.

And I can’t help but think…if only I could fly.

‘We need to dream, as a soaring imagination is the glue that keeps our soul from shattering under the impact of a prosaic world’. – BC.

a bit about fly

If I had a peanut for every time someone asked me about my novel, I would have sixteen peanuts.


Peanut-related psychotic outbursts aside, I feel like it’s time I gave some kind of overall insight into this work of fiction I am attempting to create. The last straw was when someone joked that I must have spent the 19 hours writing 25,000 words of a Mills and Boon novel. I cannot allow such rumours to gain traction, not until I have at least one decent novel under my belt. Right now I don’t even have a belt. I am just a baggy Hessian sack. The other issue here is that most people expect a succinct one-sentence answer. They don’t take too kindly to you sitting them down for a 2-day marathon workshop sesh (or so I’ve learnt the hard way).

Right now I have a great big fat rock on my shoulder that I have named ‘THE UNFINISHED THING IN MY LIFE’ (TUTIML or Tim for short). Tim crushes me often, weighing me down with the knowledge that I have taken on more than I can handle. So when someone asks me about it, they’re basically jumping on that rock and gyrating on it, and there I am trying to remember what the story is even about. What we end up with is a flustered response along the lines of ‘something epic, Fly girl, I can’t talk about it, you’re not the boss of me!!’

I forced myself to buck up when one of my fellow RABBIT HOLE team members asked for the synopsis of the project I was working on. I won’t lie to you. I was caught off guard. I knew that synopsis meant ‘lengthier than thou outline’. Naturally, like all struggling writers with a full time day job and no time at all in the world, I didn’t have one. So I wrote one on the spot and thought I’d share it with you. And the next time someone asks me about it, I will hyper link their faces to this blog.


Here goes nothing/everything

It’s an epic story about love and the universe and how everything is connected. There’s a Gaelic spiritual theme with some faint feminist undertones. On earth there’s a constant, subtle presence from a parallel universe called The Lost Chord and it surrounds the earth in one giant invisible glass dome. The main writing style is magic realism when writing about earth (most prevalent) and elements of fantasy when describing the other universe.

It starts with an old man who we discover is The Keeper of Souls. He knows about the lives of every single human on earth and even has access to all of their memories. But when the earth ends in a cataclysmic event, he has no idea what caused it, because the only survivor and person most likely responsible for it all ending, doesn’t have a soul. He can’t read her at all. He was not even aware that the girl without a soul existed.

This is because she was created by a woman named Destiny (her name is also her job title), a powerful and feisty woman who forgot to mention her side project: Fly. When Destiny first predicted the end of the world, she panicked and tried to prevent it from happening by creating a powerful girl named Fly and sending her to earth. But what happens if the world was always destined to end? What if she couldn’t actually alter destiny (ironically) or even the fate of the world? What if, in actual fact, sending Fly down was only going to exacerbate things?

Destiny realises her mistake, that she got too carried away and was overly ambitious because Fly is *too* extraordinary to fix the world. She is the catalyst. She feels the emotions of the universe through a larger-than-life bout of empathy. When she feels normal human emotions like sadness, heartache, loneliness or mourning, she feels it on such a scale that her small actions have the effect of leading to a chain reaction of terrible things, which lead to mass disasters. This unique part of her is meant to start a chain reaction of wonderful, happy things. But she can’t create happiness and goodness from nothing. She has to channel it from somewhere. The thing about Fly is the way she’s extraordinary but so completely oblivious to the effect she has on the world. Her only concern is searching for the goodness, love and happiness in humanity, so she can fulfil her mission (a mission she’s not even sure about).

The story traces back the steps of her life, how she came to exist, the tiny yet extraordinary and inexplicable happenings, the story of the woman who adopted her and how all of it leads to the end. And of course, like all narratives, only Fly can breathe life back in to the world….BUT AT WHAT COST?

*ominous eerie music to take us out to the sponsored advertisement*