Felicity Chapman's Blog

April 28, 2018

Excerpt #1 from novel 'Connected'

Chapter One: Air

EARTH. SLOWLY IT MOVES and gently turns us around. A swirling ball of colours against the black beyond. A home. The atmosphere holds us, gives us life until we breathe our last. Until we are transported to the ‘other side’, where spirits roam. Where we can watch over those we love.

There she is, half asleep, she stands in front of the dresser, still unaware of what is to become. Her long, raven hair goes taut with each stroke of the brush. Her hands move rhythmically while her sleepy body rouses. The night slip sashays easily over those girlish thighs and the open case before her sparkles with treasures for her to wear. Pearls sit lazily to one side and the gold band on her finger glints in the early morning light. Who can blame her for the life she leads? It is enviable, true, but should it incite ill will? No. Her nature quells any rising scorn from even the hardest of hearts. Except one – that good-for-nothing colleague. He is blind to her kindness and grace.

Engaged in her morning ritual, she feels pensive in her apartment on that tree-lined street of the well-to-do, with cars that smell fresh, their leather seats all new. Nearby cafés bustle as they wait upon their Sunday brunch crowd. Retirees amble, hand-in-hand along the grass, their hats bobbing with each enthusiastic nod. The sun gathers its strength as day begins. The air is silky and warm, with a wide blue sky that seems to grin as cotton wool clouds float high above.

She smiles into the mirror, her brush suspended mid-stroke. The mark on her cheek has a certain appeal. It is not quite strawberry red, a little darker. The size of a coin, maybe, or the centre of a daisy. She no longer tries to hide it from view by furiously dabbing on makeup, hoping for it to disappear. Now, it is laid bare and she proudly examines its shape. She traces it lightly with her finger. It is a natural aberration, a beautiful imperfection, that plays about her face like a singular petal of different colour, arresting the eye as patterns might, on a gum tree scorched lightly by fire. She can see what people think, how this mark adds a quirky charm to her face. But now, she isn’t thinking of how it complements her features. She thinks only of what it means. It’s a mark of significance, she says to herself as she gazes at her reflection. That thought soothes like a lullaby.

Then, unbidden, a memory flashes into view. Her smile vanishes. She recalls the nightmare she’d had hours earlier. It was too horrific to be a premonition. I must have overheated, she thinks. Why did I put the winter doona on so soon? Her chastising changes to dread, as the memory of her dream oozes through her like oily sludge. Lisa had never before felt such fear. ‘Argh! No!’ she had yelled into the night as she sat bolt upright in bed. Grotesque, dark, treacherous hands had reached for her throat and torn every sinew away from her body. Her flesh was floating – disembodied around the room – and everything she held dear was turning to dust.

She had resisted the urge to call her special five, those she cherishes the most. Not at 2.30 in the morning! Sensible Lisa and Paranoid Lisa wrestled each other to the floor and what finally emerged was a promise to text them all at daybreak: Had a strange dream last night. Just checking, is everything okay? All was well but they were, of course, roused by her concern. Lisa’s extrasensory abilities are admired with quiet reverence.

Making herself a cappuccino, she shakes off the bad memory. Work to do, she thinks, turning on her laptop. Moving towards the sliding doors, she opens them and can hear the birds chirruping in the trees outside. Children run and laugh in the playground nearby and the faint sounds of their giggling drift into the apartment.

Sounds outside fade as her concentration bores into the screen. Fingers tap and her mind whirs with focus as she sifts through the long list of emails. Pausing at one, her eyes narrow. Good evening Lisa, I trust that you will have completed the specs for Rio Tinto by the end of the week. I’ll be back in Melbourne then and we can discuss it with the team. Delete! She presses the button with force and feels a shiver run through her spine. Him, she thinks, with exasperation. How her colleague’s taunting wears her down.

Shaken, she looks away from the screen. She breathes in deeply to regain her composure and glances about the room. Work papers teeter high on the kitchen bench. Another man’s tie lays neatly over the chaise lounge. Her feelings for this man are quite different to that good-for-nothing colleague. I hope you’re okay, she thinks. The memory of his presence fills her with appreciation, his travel plans with anxiety. ‘Don’t worry about me,’ he had said to her, before giving her a kiss and stuffing his contact details into her sweaty hand.

The bookshelf near Lisa groans with volumes that only the well-schooled want to read. Rows of little burgundy leather-bound books filled with ageing pages sit together on one shelf. A collection of 1898 fifth edition plays – King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth – part of her maternal grandparents’ estate.

‘Come sit here,’ Harold would say, as he gathered his granddaughter onto his lap, his grey beard as intriguing to Lisa as the hair that protruded from his nose. ‘Let me read you something, my lass.’ He would reach for a tiny book with a grunt, then relax as he opened it. No matter which book he opened, the inside of the cover was always the same; Non Sans Droict, it said under the yellow and black coat of arms. Lisa would settle back with a sigh and feel the low rumble of his voice reverberate from his chest, peppered with animation as he spoke the words like a true thespian. It didn’t matter that her young ears didn’t understand. It only mattered that she was with her grandad.

At his funeral, her nine-year-old hands had clutched his favourite book, Cymbeline. There it sits now on the far left of the bookshelf, beside his precious ashes, safely contained in a brown glazed urn. On the shelf above are mint condition figurines and higher still, on the dining room wall, a neatly curated set of photographs. A little to the right of the bookshelf, champagne-coloured silk curtains are held back by brass rosettes. Flowers spill over a thick glass vase atop an intricately carved dining table. Surrounding the table are eight sumptuously upholstered chairs and, underneath, the Thai rug from eccentric Uncle Bob. So different to Father, Lisa thinks, shaking her head with a smile.

The décor is evidence of her upbringing. She didn’t choose to be privileged, choose how she was raised. Who does? None have a say in who cradles them as a babe, or even if they are. They lay in hope that their wailings will be heard. But Lisa had soothing, warm arms to hold her tight. She was showered with affection and knew what it was like to feel loved and well-fed. With boundless wealth, she journeyed through the years, never in want or in need but still generous to those who were. She had everything a girl could wish for, her childhood almost as perfect as the beautiful morning outside.

Time fades as she absorbs herself in tenders and proposals. Suddenly, the phone rings. Startled, Lisa looks at the caller’s name and smiles.
‘Hellooo,’ she croons into the handset.
There is silence. And in that silence, understanding comes to her.
‘No.’ When she finally breaks the silence, her voice is barely a whisper.
With the force of a wrecking ball, she is winded beyond belief. She holds the phone close to her cheek. The call has ended but her body cannot move. She is ashen-faced and her breathing is rapid and shallow. The floor beneath her begins to float. Deathly figures rise up and the flowers on the table morph into leering gargoyles. Her composure has vanished. She is a crumpled piece of paper, a suitcase thrown open, with all its contents scattered.

Eventually, she rises from the floor. When was it that she had sunk and crouched on the tiles like a haggard waif? Black crows fly down to feast on her eyes. Trembling, her body summons its strength to stand against the swirling mass around her. A long strand of hair falls across her face. She doesn’t bother to brush it back. Instead, it stays there like a fly stuck in ointment, glued to her tear-stained face. Steadying herself on the kitchen bench, she edges her way towards the sink to fill a glass with water. Breathe, Lisa! her troubled mind instructs.

The grotesque, dark, treacherous hands start reaching for her throat. Just some water! she tries to coach herself. But it is no use. The terror is rising and her body tightens. She cannot breathe. All her trinkets and treasures are dust. She launches towards the sliding doors. Her eyes are wild with desperation.
‘I need …’ Wrenching the fly screen open, she staggers outside. She pants, taking in huge gulps of air. Holding onto the balcony rail with a claw-like grip, her body shakes and heaves in oxygen. Her world is unravelling. She doesn’t notice the young couple staring up at her, open-mouthed. In any other moment, she would be mortified to attract this much attention.

They call out, ‘Hey, lady, are you okay?’
She cannot hear. She cannot see. All senses are lost in her black hole of despair. She is divorced from life, an alien. ‘Oh God,’ is all she can manage as she hunches over, grasping at her chest.
‘Shit!’ the couple say in unison, as the man scrambles for his mobile.
A whiff of consciousness filters through Lisa’s wretched state and she turns to go back inside. She steps into the kitchen and then freezes when she sees the photo on the wall.

‘Oh God,’ she says again. ‘This can’t be happening.’

For more about Connected visit www.connectedthenovel.online
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Published on April 28, 2018 15:55 Tags: drama, romance

April 27, 2018

Excerpt #2 from novel 'Connected'

Chapter Two: Blood


FORTY YEARS EARLIER – before the secret of Lisa’s past came to be – there is a share house that sits above a busy Melbourne café. Café Arezzo is owned by Mr and Mrs Beltrame, who immigrated from Italy six years earlier. They converted the second storey into rented accommodation, to support their growing business and family.

Wow, wow, wow, wow …

Teresa is in the kitchen upstairs, swinging her hips while singing and cooking bacon and eggs. The hot December sun is blaring down. Through the rickety window above the sink, a cluster of buildings spreads out into the back streets and alleyways. Tin roofs shine like beacons and a spattering of rooftop gardens relieves the eye from the glaring mass of metal. Teresa turns a rasher of bacon with one hand and takes another hungry suck of her cigarette with the other. Smoky fumes fill the air and Teresa’s warbly voice swallows up the sweet radio melody. It’s eleven o’clock on a Saturday morning and she was the first up, as usual. Her tight pyjama shorts ride high up over her fleshy behind and her brightly coloured bikini top struggles to keep the contents safe inside. Teresa taps her cigarette over a dirty yellow ashtray on the bench. She looks up when the door creaks open.

‘Oh, hey sugar.’
Annie rubs her eyes in response. She had woken to the sounds of Teresa’s less-than-tuneful singing, along with the familiar ding! of the tram on Brunswick Street. The faint smell of incense had wafted around the room and shafts of late morning sun streamed in from her bedroom window. Her lips were pulsing and dry as she searched her room for a T-shirt. Shrugging it on, she pulled her hair free. It was already damp with sweat. She had opened her windows the night before for some relief but they had become channels for the sauna-like heat outside. Bang! She slammed the windows shut, the clatter and chatter below becoming a dull and muted drone.
‘Sharpy not up yet?’ she mumbles to Teresa, helping herself to what’s left in the pan.
‘God no, are you kidding?’ replies Teresa. ‘He was snoring like a trooper when I woke.’

Annie isn’t surprised. That was a busy shift, she thinks. She’d worked the tables with Sharpy last night, at the café downstairs. She cuts into another piece of bacon and thinks about how good Maria and Alfonzo are to her. They give her as many shifts as she wants but Friday night is the shift she looks forward to the most. That’s when Sharpy is there. He’s like a brother to her and boy, does he make her laugh with his clever university talk and dry humour. Last night after their shift – and into the early hours of the morning – they’d fallen over each other laughing until they cried, the bong discarded on the floor.

Teresa had already gone to bed. Which bed Teresa ends up in, however, is somewhat of a guessing game for Annie. Sometimes it’s with Sharpy, sometimes it’s her own. Their on-again-off-again relationship makes Annie giddy.

‘God, I can’t keep up with you guys!’ she’d complained once, in mock anger. Whenever it looked like they were back together and could rent out the third room, they’d have a fight and be back to separate beds. The mood between them would sometimes become uncomfortably tense, but mostly it wasn’t a problem.

Annie isn’t envious of their relationship. She has no shortage of admirers. Her long blonde hair, green eyes and slight but shapely build keep a steady stream of star-struck men bounding up the stairs to her room.

‘That one,’ Sharpy would often say, as he saw the attraction build in a customer during a shift, ‘watch out for that one, Annie girl.’ Annie would laugh that pretty laugh of hers.
‘Aw, Sharpy, aren’t you sweet?’ she’d say. ‘Don’t you worry about me.’
Teresa sees it too, the kindness Sharpy has for Annie. But it has been nothing to rouse any jealous concern. ‘What about you and Sharpy?’ Teresa had once suggested in a half serious attempt to test Annie’s platonic exterior and, maybe, reveal a competitor. ‘Me and Sharpy?’ Annie had exclaimed, her eyes wide with shock. The infectious giggle that bubbled up soon had both girls falling to the floor, writhing in agonising laughter. No, Annie does not feel that way about Sharpy.

But what neither Teresa nor Annie knows is that Sharpy’s interest in Annie is more than just a friendly flame; it is an obsession. Neither of them knows how many times Sharpy has held Annie’s bathroom towel against his nose to inhale the sweetness of her perfume, how many dreams wove together in her honour or how he likes to watch her work a table from the safety of the bar.

Sharpy is obsessed with Annie: the way her lips purse when deep in thought, the way her hair slips over her shoulder as she bends, her womanly shape plain to see. He can’t explain what her eyes do to him, when they sparkle playfully or soften, dreamlike. Annie has no idea how much Sharpy desires her or how aggrieved he is with the knowledge that she does not feel the same.

The two girls chat over breakfast in the small but bright kitchen. Lime green cupboards surround the perimeter and a red laminex table dominates the centre of the room. Annie is resting her head on the table when Sharpy walks in. ‘Why Sharpy?’ Annie had asked once about his nickname. ‘That’s for me to know, Annie, and you to never find out,’ he’d said, grinning broadly.

Sharpy walks over and sits down next to Annie, pretending not to notice her see-through T-shirt. As always, he keeps his affections buried deep. He holds his secret the way a pickpocket might relish freshly stolen trinkets. Only late at night, in private, he unpacks all of the images that he has stored away and savours them like a child does a long-awaited ice-cream.

For more about Connected visit www.connectedthenovel.online
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Published on April 27, 2018 00:55 Tags: drama, romance

April 19, 2018

Review: “A must read for social workers working in this field!”

This books makes a timely, thoughtful and much needed contribution regarding the need for, and how to, provide counselling services in residential age care facilities.

It addresses a range of individual, relational and systemic issues: challenges ageist approaches; provides therapeutic insights and tools; and resists the dominance of singular clinical approaches arguing instead for a more person focused nuanced approach placing the older person at the centre of the counselling or psychotherapeutic relationship.

It highlights the important role social workers play in this area and is also highly relevant to working with older people in the community. The author points out the many challenges regarding working in this area not least of all being the lack of funding to provide this service in the residential sector and the need for professional advocacy to redress this issue.

A must read for social workers working in this field! A pleasure to read and review.

Margaret, senior social worker for older adults in the community – Australia
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March 11, 2018

Review: “Wonderful source of information for understanding seniors and working with them.”

Counselling and Psychotherapy with Older People in Care has strengthened my desire to do psychotherapy with older people, especially seniors from non-English-speaking backgrounds because that is the group I have had the most experience with and passion for. Most of my clients are between the ages of 65 and 80 years old, but the proportion of those who are over 80 is getting larger every year. Sometimes I feel frustrated when it is difficult to engage because clients have poor hearing, speech difficulties, and/or memory problems. It is inspiring to know how other therapists are dealing with the same issues. I found lots of tips that could be useful in communication with advanced senior clients.

The book covers all stages of counselling/psychotherapy with advanced seniors: assessment, engagement and intervention. I like the idea of senior-friendly measures and senior-friendly approaches in formal assessment. The ideas and recommendation in the book are supported by case studies that show broad diversity of circumstances and life experience. Sparks of humour in the book make it interesting and enjoyable to read.

Chapter eight about ageism made me take a moment to review my language and communication style. As a result, I have excluded from my language several words (in Russian) that could lead my clients to feeling disempowered.

Overall, Felicity, thank you very much for the great book.

Natalia, bilingual social worker - Australia
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March 8, 2018

Extended Table of contents for 'Counselling and Psychotherapy with Older People in Care: A Support Guide'


1. Residential Living

Building Trust with Staff
Who is Your Client?
Negotiating the Space
Collaboration is Key

2. Barriers to Engagement

The Referral Context
Resident Unfamiliarity and Wariness
Positive Psychology?

3. Types of Distress

Social or Spiritual
Environmental or Lifestyle

4. The Moving Wheel of Assessment

The Mental Health and Neurological Spectrum
Determining Suitability and Whose Problem It Is
Informal Assessment
Formal Assessment

5. Invitations for Engagement

The Missing Jigsaw Piece
Undercover Agents
The Lifestory Interview

6. Types of Engagement

Issue Specific Interventions
Multimodal Interventions
An Integrated Model for Intervention

7. Caring for You the Psychotherapist

The Mickey Mouse Mindset
Buttons and Formal Supervision
Compassion Satisfaction
Dealing with Frustrations and Disillusions

8. Disempowering Attitudes

‘O’ is for Obsolete
It’s Not Worth It
What Do You Expect?
Where’s the Progression?

9. Building Senior-Friendly Care Systems

Empowerment or Dependency?
Relevant Programs of Specialist Care
Accessibility all ‘Round
Bring Sexy Back!

Appendix 1: Determining Suitability and Tailoring Intervention
Appendix 2: Intake and First Few Sessions
Appendix 3: Some Experiences of Grief
Further Reading and Resources
Subject Index
Author Index

order online at Amazon.com and view author's website www.yourstoryline.com.au
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March 7, 2018

Review: "A book that is one of a kind."

Counselling and Psychotherapy with Older People in Care: A Support Guide is a book that is one of a kind. Felicity has written important information for those meeting and working with older people in care facilities in a relevant and accessible way. Many older people in care are lost and have no hope.

Counsellors or workers who aim to engage meaningfully with such people must have guidelines or frameworks from which to work from. This book allows such workers to develop a scope of practice; to know how to make conversations that “…have been meaningful for that person – offered healing no matter how small” (p. 8).

Older people’s stories often get missed or overlooked but they are very important. Felicity emphasises the importance of helping older people understand themselves and by doing that to allow their stories to influence us. Each chapter ends with personal questions of reflection which I, as a social worker in an aged care facility, found very helpful.

The book reads really well. It begins with the wider context of older people in care, including discussions about types of distress that people may feel and how to engage with this population. It then goes on to share insights about assessments and interventions to use to assist older people open up and get deeper into their issues.

Felicity recognises that the type of work involved in caring for older people can be a struggle, and also shares about helpful ways to care for yourself - the practitioner - when working with older people. The book discusses various types of ageist beliefs and how practitioners can challenge them. There are also many relevant therapist/ client scenarios to help practitioners put knowledge into practice.

If you work or volunteer with older people, or want to, I highly recommend this book. It will empower you to get to the heart of the issue – the resident’s story.

Chrystal Trewren, aged care facility social worker - Australia
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Published on March 07, 2018 20:02 Tags: counseling, geriatric-care, older-people