“You talk, you talk, that’s all you can do!” [Tu causes, tu causes. c’est tout c’que tu sais faire]” ―Raymond Queneau, Zazie dans le Metro
I like to talk and share my latest words, and YOU… What do you like to do?
Anne-Marie Smith is a French-born Australian non-fiction, flash-fiction writer and editor.
She taught English as a Second Language in Zambia and lectured at the University of Papua New Guinea. In Western Australia she taught in Kalgoorlie for TAFE and was Education Officer at a prison. She worked with indigenous communities and migrants in the West Pilbara where she was the inaugural Community Cultural worker in the Roebourne Shire and managed the Amnesty International Office in Perth.
What she wrote
Anne-Marie published several academic articles related to her doctorate at UPNG on the socio-linguistic use of English in Papua New Guinea. She spoke at international linguistic conferences in Papua New Guinea and in Australia.
The anthology entitled ‘Culture is‘ she edited with the Australian Multicultural Writers Association and Wakefield Press was shortlisted under Literature non-fiction by the Human Rights Commission.
Pardon My French Ginninderra Press 2018 [available there]
Culture is Wakefield Press 2008 [out of print]
Anne-Marie published her memoir, Pardon My French through Ginninderra Press.
She gave talks at arts festivals and presentations to women’s groups about ‘Five Women’ whose cultures from around the world strongly impacted on her when she lived and worked in Europe, Central Africa, Papua New Guinea, Western and South Australia.
Anne-Marie publishes some of her short fiction on Flash Fiction websites like Paragraph Planet. Her story on the dilemma of Australian Refugee offshore detention was selected by Hawkeye Books, and her account of the early pandemic days by Mana Press.
How she lives
She married a British educationist and training consultant, Peter Smith. They now live near Adelaide in South Australia. Anne-Marie is dedicated to yoga and volunteering for non-government organisations while Peter who now volunteers part-time goes to the gym and walks to the beach.
There they meet to relish the crêpe café culture. Their grandchildren love joining them from interstate and overseas and play ballgames, collect shells to paint – usually in the heat of the Australian summer.
The flash fiction Anne-Marie likes to write
Remote communities, Australia
Delly and Boyd Stokes have dedicated their lives to working with remote communities and helping disadvantaged youth understand their role in upholding Indigenous culture in the modern day.
[Delson] soon formed Yabu Band. Yabu means a stone or rock and is the strength of Delly’s music. I have tried to learn some Wongatha language from his music.
The tones of Yabu Band are mild and ‘scratchy’ – and also very pretty, due to the clear changes of tonality from singer songwriter Delson, fully enhanced by the extra Australian desert rock rhythm from his brother, guitarist Boyd Stokes. They are very well complemented by performers from differing backgrounds. We must not however forget the energy and vitality emanating from the elders that Delson and Boyd summon to protect and guide them.
With lyrics like I hear a cry in the wind/A spirit in the tree/A signal from the heart, anyone of us who have listened to traditional Aboriginal stories know the significance of being beckoned, summoned or ‘sung’ by a call or a feeling. It is part of how the ancestors through the Dreaming can manifest themselves to the younger generation. They signal their presence and help their descendants make sense of the spiritual emotion that drives them. This in turn will provide a connection with their aspirations in life.
The perseverance to stay proud, to speak the ancient tongue and to be free although They changed the real me are achievements generated by the talented Yabu Band and the Stokes family who have kept up with their grandmother‘s advice to stand beside others in their community as peacemakers. ‘Rise up – reach out’, Delson sings ‘Let our voices be heard’
Palya ‘Lets walk together in harmony’ Peacemakers!
Check it out on you tube: https://youtu.be/AUVxQLZaI5g
In my dreams I call my project a biblio-bus, but it would not run like council vans that visit people regularly. Neither would it drop books to a random telephone booth or letterbox on the street side.
This project consists of a long-travel journey around Australia. It aims at delivering reading matter and library resources to remote and isolated centres or schools many of whom would be Australian Indigenous communities. By staying there several weeks I build a profile of what each group chooses as their theme of interest. Initially I contribute encyclopaedias or magazines to complement the literary texts I have brought. If a community has a topic of interest, like starting their own business, I commit, in writing, to a follow-up visit within a year. If or when I obtain permission from the community, I source information on their selected subject.
Next I ascertain that a four-wheel drive of a reasonable size can access the centre. I recruit a team of younger volunteers as resource persons to be rotated. I consult with Australian Indigenous Reading experts like Dr Anita Heiss and publishers like Magabala Books for guidance and support. Finally I distribute the lists of necessary books and equipment to a variety of charity groups. Rather than ask donors for cash, the groups request hard copy resources to donate to those centres.
Although I regret that I haven’t implemented this project yet, I believe I was not ready to manage this strategy in my earlier life. I used to encourage people to read for reading’s sake. However, reading information for a project is a more suitable model for improving literacy. People work better when focusing on their own life experiences.
The major drawback I suspect is the delay factor. The younger people may well wait a few months for the resources to reach them. It’s never too late for them to make things happen. They may talk to their siblings and form a group with the elders to develop the steps they plan for their future focus of interest.
Nov 2020 :
A story that fits in with the 2020 Naidoc theme
‘Always was and always will be’
That’s what we do and what we’ve done:
day after day, for entire months
over many number of years
decades and centuries
at least two of them
we are here and we
were not invited
in this isle.
try one first
you can stay a while
you can sit down and talk
you could try talking, wangka,
you can share some food together
even go here and there step by step
watch people work within the seasons
listen to mothers singing to children, their tjitji-
then you could ask ‘do you want anything of me?’
Oct 2020 :
Stereo stories –
I wrote a piece featuring a very sad Australian song for the year of BLM, of significance for the Aboriginal people of the stolen generation, from 1986 when I arrived in Australia, by Bob Randall and also sung by Paul Kelly.
A new piece of Flash Fiction
http://www.bytestories.com The Antimilitarist (in 1500 byte size)
During the Pandemic I contributed ‘A sense of direction’ to the Mana Press Anthology ‘Life in the time of Coronavirus’
- https://manapress.com.au/pages/life-in-the-time-of-corona : – you can read it here
Life in the Time of Corona, Mana Press, Anthology:
A SENSE OF DIRECTION by Anne-Marie Smith, August 2020
The coronavirus lockdown forced me to find a sense of direction. From home I timetabled a daily routine, highlighted it in a range of bright colours and started to project an image of myself as a person who could follow several parallel patterns in life. Clearing massive piles of redundant items in the house; initiating a database of my home library (a long term project with my husband); some website updates and creative writing; progressing my word puzzles on my mobile (I am now .27 percent ahead of users on seven letter words); relishing casual reading of free archives offered by literary journal Meanjin, as well as my bedside books. I also started listening to classical music interludes or podcasts before I went to sleep. I was able to gather my energies around all of this. I am still wondering how long these remarkable habits will last.
Earlier in life I had tried to progress but didn’t get anywhere. Someone always put me off. ‘Why are you doing this? Not worth the bother.’ Frustration made my spirit flag. I had forgotten how much my dreams meant to me. When the coronavirus confined us at home, I stepped up, as if confident in myself, and signed for an online course. There I re-discovered my skills and found how much I could achieve. Three weeks later I sent my followers a brand-new invitation! My reading group would have their first meeting online the following month.
Other things happened which could have conflicted with my new state of mind. I had booked a face massage for the middle of March. As the country went into lockdown, warnings came to all of us including ‘Don’t touch your face’. I wondered what the masseuse could do for me. Then an announcement came. ‘Beauty parlours are closed. Hairdressers to stay open.’ At that point I decided to use my electric clipper for a hair cut. There would be more face-massages as a celebration treat at the end of isolation. The hairdressers stayed open but I just held firm cutting my own hair as short as I could on a number two setting!
All was going quite well until the end of the second month when outrageous remarks started to dominate social media. I resented many of the anti-Asian racist comments that people added to some of the generic posts about the origin of the coronavirus in China. Vile words were splattered with buffoon cartoons and hurtful venom. Chain letters of inane content circulated among many users. I was upset but also concerned, even worried that in the end these comments could hold sway. I decided that I would argue my point. I had gathered enough energy to place some repartees of my own.
I now know it is hard to avoid trolls online as in life. Once we are given the go ahead to move about town I will rejoin my own personal network. I think I will follow the new fulfilling direction in my life where I stand up for my views. I will try and make it work. I hope it lasts, at least for a while.
Refugees came to Australia but were detained on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) for over six years and many are still there.
I highlighted the various dilemmas this practise led to.
This piece was selected for ‘Allsorts’ a diversity-based Anthology by Hawkeye Books.
- https://hawkeyebooks.com.au/allsorts/fbclid=IwAR2g_6FhoMPkujBcwEPqoBKPYaGx1HS6iEV OI7jqCUmdAhIT9-dUVmR3cY
In 2019 This Papua New Guinea-related website featured a chapter taken from my Memoir ‘Pardon My French’:
The ABC Life Matters Program on Radio National played a segment of a turning point adapted from my Life Story where you can hear my voice and my French accent:
During 2019 Five Women across Cultures
- In 2019 I gave a talk to different groups (Business and VIEW, Arts Festival and Library in South Australia), on Five Women who have impacted on me from 5 different parts of the world
- Because of Covid-19 I wasn’t able to take this presentation to some community groups in Western Australia.
At Skive magazine you will find one on my online short stories
- https://skivemag.wordpress.com/2019-may/ – you can read it below
Living in the Moment
a short story by ANNE-MARIE SMITH
https://skivemag.wordpress.com/2018-october/ If you get to the end you will come across my sometimes impressions of Adelaide Writers Week. Comments welcome!
Dominique and I are standing behind the gates of the police station. We are wearing hoop skirts with a plain knit top, the latest fashion of the time.
‘Here they come! Let’s do it!’
‘Why did you choose to meet here?’ Dominique is asking. She is always the calm and logical one.
‘Because, well, it’s near my home and the cinema is just around the corner.’
A small group of us – two boys, Dominique and me with another two girls – are standing outside the gendarmerie where I live with my parents. Marching out into the street with a group of friends is not something I have done before. On too many occasions I have heard my gendarme father’s warning, ‘Three is a crowd, and you could get arrested.’ But this time I am ready to confront the world and because I live among them, I’m not scared of the police. What’s more, being arrested is tempting. I’m holding on to my home-made placard.
We are in France. It’s the late 1960s. Dominique on my right, the six of us start marching to the local cinema. This is not a big town, and everyone knows each other, but we are on a mission.
‘Why do we call this Le Happening, again?’ Dominique asks.
‘It’s when something just takes place spontaneously.’ Alain speaks up, his long hair waving in the wind. He tells us he knows about the English vocabulary of revolt. Sylvie rolls her eyes. She is critical of his ready-made answers every time a girl asks a question. She puts him right.
‘Well, it’s American actually!’
We are staging what we call in French Le Happening. We have decided that, together with the cine-club members, we will keep this a simple event: we’ll walk out of the cinema and stage a short but loud protest. But a controversial Cuban film is being screened. It’s called ‘Death of a Bureaucrat’ and is an avant-garde revolutionary film that we cannot afford to miss, so we plan for our group to watch that first, then we shall rally everyone out.
As the film finishes, we stand up with resolve and call everyone out of the cinema while chanting
and in answer to: What do we want?
We don’t intend to disturb the traffic or occupy the cinema, we just lead the audience chanting onto the street all the way to the supermarket and back. It is a five hundred metre walk and we know that, in this small town, we will be noticed.
We’ve had enough. Centralisation is stifling the talents of all French youth. It is the issue we care most about as none of us can emerge from country towns to make it as actors or writers. We all feel deprived that we don’t even have a decent theatre for staging the latest play by Harold Pinter or Ionesco! We have had to fight no end of battles with bureaucracies all our lives but now we want to be heard.
I run ahead with my placard to start the chanting.
• • •
In decentralised Australia, Adelaide is not short of theatres and venues, and yet I rejoice in attending outdoors alternative events like the Writers’ Festival, in this great cultural centre of Australia. I sit mesmerised to be in proximity to some of my favourite authors.
Choosing to wear the sort of clothes that would fit in with the 40-degree heat in the free and open-air gardens of Adelaide, I am wearing loose cotton pants, an Amnesty International T-shirt and a cap. In my back pack are a couple of frozen bottles of water. I feel quite relaxed till I notice that many of the women are wearing straw hats with flowery blouses and skirts. I realise then that my looks, not just my accent, will emphasise how different I am!
I don’t have my own group to sit with although there are quite a few people I know. I will talk to them. I have no hesitation in starting conversations and every year there I meet new people. From near the book tent I see many of the most famous authors in our town, some of whom will get on stage. I am dying to speak to JM Coetzee, but I will be lucky to manage to speak to Sean, Jude or Peter Goldsworthy on their way to the green room or to get a coffee. I however show spontaneity when I spot David Malouf and ask him to make a reference to the empty chair that our PEN group has positioned on his stage. I am chuffed by his pleasant response to me and because he does mention the chair!
Over time I have built up a string of great memories. One of them is when sitting on the green lawn under our piercing blue sky, we are all entranced by Ian McEwan reading the first chapter of his new novel, Solar. He paints for us visions of the people in British brick houses while his aircraft is attempting to land over London in slow motion and in several consecutive circles.
The following day brought another amazing scene. Many in the audience holding their cold bottles of water over their napes are sitting in the shade of palm trees on a slope expecting a verbal stoush. Germaine Greer, instead of sparking off an activist’s Mexican wave, triggers a gentle ironic ripple of laughter from the crowd when we realise that she herself doesn’t have the energy to harangue the youth who has just made a stand declaring that she isn’t a feminist. Greer simply calls out ‘Come and see me in a few years!’
This year I feel is a very sedate gathering, although some major crime and historical novelists are having an impact on the crowd. I would not mind having a good debate with any of the authors. I’d love to knock the mono-cultural and post-colonial tone of some presentations. When I get to the microphone the question I meant to be prodding may sound simply like a scatty after-thought rather than a rebellious, anti-bourgeois statement. Still, I offer it as a comment.
I think I might be more popular if I suddenly got up and chanted:
and then with great panache
WE WANT-MORE – NAT’RAL-SHADE!
I reckon that would work quite well and I could even start a conga line on the theme.
But I won’t. This outdoor venue provides me with great enjoyment. I like hearing all the authors, taking notes, talking to the writers whose book I buy each year. Where else can you also, while queuing for coffee, select which author session to attend, simply by eavesdropping on the tone of their voice in their opening comments?
Later in the day, I even enjoy moving my chair from one group to the next even though we, at Adelaide Writers’ Week, know that’s not really done. The marquees are clearly separated and labelled to indicate which one of the groups you’re attending. However, the afternoon sun can lead to soporific discussions and some discreet restlessness.
Not to worry, I have not lost my taste for taking risks! Over a few decades I’ve learnt to negotiate to avoid getting arrested. I contemplate starting a chair revolution next year. I will demand more tables, or better, insist on discussions. The latter thought appeals greatly and I visualise myself walking between the rows of chairs waving my cap shouting:
I will get insistent.
© Anne-Marie Smith, 2018
Since 2010 this UK micro fiction website published several of my 75 words paragraphs,about one a year since 2011 :
At Writers SA in Adelaide you’ll find a summary of who I am and what I have published creatively over the last ten years:
At Ginninderra Press or on any online website ( like Amazon) you can find my book called Pardon My French, just published in March 2018:
Switch to my parole-blog on this website for my micro fiction 100 word vignettes short stories and some bilingual writing (Engl/Fr)
Under Contact, please make sure to leave me
a message to say:
Hi ! Bonjour! Palya! Cheers! and Ciao…
International Day of Home Languages
25/02/19 During International Day of Home Languages last week I tried to widen my vocabulary to list the words for Bon and Bien in French to their closest equivalent in the languages of Nations I have visited or lived in. Comments, corrections and feedback welcome!
Bon Bien French
- Good Okay English
- Palya Palya Pitjantjatjara
- Marni Ku Kaurna
- Waba Waba Ngarluma
- Gutpela Orait Tok Pisin
- Namo Namo Hiri Motu
- Zabwino Bwino Nyanja
- Kuhle Kuhle Zulu
- Nzuri Vizuri Swahili
- Boa Bem Portuguese
- Buono Bene Italian
- Bueno Bien Spanish
- Bon Ben Occitan
- Bo Bé Catalan
- Ona Ondo Basque
- Gut Gut German
- Goed Goed Dutch
- Dobrý Dobře Czech
- Jó Jól Hungary
- Go maith Maith Irish
- Hyvä Hyvin Finnish
- Hea Hästi Estonian
- Bra Bra Swedish
- Mabuti Mabuti Filipino
- Tốt Tốt Vietnamese
- Yoi [良い] Yoku [良] Japanese
- Hǎo [好] Liánghǎo [良好] Chinese
- Dī [ดี] Dī [ดี] Thai
- Maikai Pono Hawaii