Almost 7 years ago, my father looked at me and said, “I’ll pay your bills and give you a monthly allowance while you live with me for a year so that you can write a book.” It was the most gracious gift I’ve ever received.
It would be easy to say that it was my dad’s generosity that launched my life as a writer, but that would not be true. I launched my life as a writer, and it happened many, many years before that when I made a commitment to writing as my truest way of being in the world.
There wasn’t a specific moment when that happened – no memory of standing on a pier by big water and dedicated myself to a life of worlds. Rather, it was gradual, an accrual of experiences and encouragements and self-awareness that came over time.
All of these moments and many more combined to be the puzzle of my own writing life. But it was that gift from my dad, the one that came with an obligation to him, the one for which I was accountable, it was that heavy, wonderful gift that drove it all home. No longer could I write this off as a side thing, no longer could I pretend it was a hobby that I would reach for years later when I miraculously had the time. No, now I had nothing but time, and I had no more excuses.
It was there in that year that became almost two with my dad that I learned three key things about living a writing life:
These three insights combined with a lifetime of loving words, the gentle encouragement that outweighed the discouragement that came in droves, and the simple fact that writing is the most fundamental way I make sense of and find truth in the world – these things are what got me started in the writing life, and they are, still, the things that keep me going.
Writer, my hope is that you believe in yourself enough to take the gifts of encouragement, time, and support that come your way from others or from yourself and weave them into the words you have living in you. Oh, I so hope that for you.
Love Letters to Writers: Encouragement, Accountability, and Truth-Telling is available from Amazon Australia here, and Amazon.com here, or try your favourite retailer.
With the release of Seeing Red getting close, and the US Navy providing the setting for the story, I asked a friend I work with if she would allow me to interview her about her life as the partner of a US Navy sailor.
Introducing… Nicole Moore
Tell me how you became a Navy wife.
Casey and I met because a Navy boat came into Hobart, an aircraft carrier. There were 5,000 American sailors - women and men - on the boat, and my girlfriend and I went out, because when you’re single and there are a lot of single men around… We met at Regines (a Hobart night club). He came up to me and told me his friend wanted to ask me a question. I said if his friend wants to ask me a question he has to do it himself, and then Casey and I started talking. We talked for the rest of the night and into the early morning. We arranged to meet the next day. I was a bit nervous at the time, wondering if he was actually going to meet me, so he gave me the baseball hat he had on. It had the initials ND on the hat, representing the college of Notre Dame - he is a big college football supporter of Notre Dame. Also, ND were my initials at the time, and so I took the hat so he would come and meet me the next day.
Then we spent most of the next five days together. When the boat left, we started emailing, as that was the only way to communicate. There’s no other communication on the boat unless there’s an emergency. So we emailed for two weeks as that’s how long it took for the boat to get from Hobart to Hawaii, which was the next port.
Casey had said he would ring me when he got to Hawaii, but he didn’t. Then he started emailing again. He said he was sorry he couldn’t ring me because a friend had got hurt and he had to take him to hospital. Then we emailed some more, and he said ‘Would you like to come out?’, and I said ‘Yes’, so I went out there for 3 weeks to see him. I then came back (to Australia) because I had a job in Bahrain to be a air stewardess, which I’d applied for before I met Casey. So I went to Bahrain for 3 months and we emailed and called while I was there. I had a problem with my ear, so they wouldn’t let me fly and I came home again. And then he said ‘Come over and I’ll take care of you’. So I went.
So where was he stationed at that point?
At that point he was stationed at Lemoore, which is in central California. It’s farm country, lots and cows and lots of corn, and flat. They fly jets out of Lemoore, and they need space, which is why the base is in central California. His squadron was VFA22, the Flying Red Cocks. Even though he was on sea duty, he was actually stationed at Lemoore.
Was he deployed again while you were there?
No, because he had come to the end of his sea duty. I stayed over there for 9 months. He transferred to be a recruiter and was then stationed at a small town called Victorville, which is between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We went down there and found him an apartment and moved down there, and I was there for about a month before I had to go home again. He had to go to training in Jacksonville, Florida, for 6 weeks before moving to Victorville, so I stayed without him for 6 weeks.
You’d made friends by then?
Yes. When I went back, we lived together and rented an apartment with another guy, and there were lots and lots of navy guys in the complex. All of his squadron were like family and very close, and they rely on each other very much. They trust each other.
How did your family feel about it?
My mum was really, really supportive, she was always, ‘Go do whatever you want to do’. I had no commitments, I wasn’t committed to anything (in Australia). Maybe they thought I was a bit mad.
What was the strangest thing about living in the States?
One of the hardest things I found was cheese. Cheese is orange in America. The hardest thing when I first went was that I couldn’t drive, as Casey’s insurance didn’t cover me.
People didn’t understand me a lot either, both terms and they way I spoke. I had to slow down. I would talk with an American accent so they would understand what I was saying. I worked for a real estate agent and wrote and ad and used ‘lounge room’ and everyone rang up and asked what a lounge room was - they say sitting room.
People assume that we’re very similar, but we’re very different.
If you had one piece of advice for others starting a relationship with a military person, what would it be?
You have to realise that they’re going to go away. You need to like your own company, or be able to cope on your own, or you have to be willing to get out there and make friends and get a job. Don’t just sit around thinking they’re going to take care of you. They work really, really long hours and they’re gone a lot of the time. You have to adapt to them, and have to work within rules and regulations, because otherwise you won’t survive.
Were there support groups you could join?
Yeah, there were lots of things on the base. I didn’t join them because I worked, Where I worked there were others who had family in the Navy - where we lived it was everywhere. There was always something happening.
Thank you, Nicole, for sharing you story!
Nicole, Casey, and their daughter, now live in Hobart.
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