Writer, editor and animal lover. I have released my memoir to raise funds to create Rainbow Animal Sanctuary, a home for rescued ex-racing greyhounds and animals in need.
My memoir discusses child abuse, how it affects the adult ability to form healthy relationships, and being stalked by Martin Bryant, the gunman who committed the Port Arthur Massacre in Australia.
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SHAME, GUILT, AND SURVIVING MARTIN BRYANT: One Woman’s Journey from Terror to Joyby Karen CollyerPublish: Mar 06, 2018Biographies & Memoirs
I was born in Hobart, the island state of Tasmania, Australia. Nanna (my grandmother) had a passion for flowers and gardening, and I remember warm, gentle days strolling through the Botanical Gardens with her when I was young. Definitely one of my favourite spots.Where did you go to college? What was your major?
I completed my undergraduate degree late in life, in my early forties, at the University of Tasmania. I completed a Bachelor of Arts, Majoring in Psychology and Sociology. Previously, in my thirties, I completed a Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing at Box Hill College, Melbourne, where I particularly enjoyed editing and screen-writing.Where does you love for animals stem from?
I can't remember not being passionate about caring for animals. As a young child, I had a dog, cats, and a pet horse. Sadly the horse wasn't mine, but lived over the fence. I keenly recall the devastating heartache I felt when the neighbour's sold him, he just disappeared. I love the saying, that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat animals. The level of abuse towards animals breaks my heart every day, but at the same time, every day more people are waking up, speaking up, and starting to treat animals better.What are the things you are passionate about and really enjoy doing?
I am passionate about helping others have a strong voice, through my work as an editor and by working with animals as an animal whisperer. I am passionate about rescuing animals, all animals. I really enjoy time with my cats, pigs Duncan and Gracie, and my beautiful dogs. I currently have one little Staffie-cross dog and three greyhounds rescued from the racing industry.What is your ideal setting to write in?
My kitchen, surrounded by my animal family members.You are trying to raise funds for Rainbow Animal Sanctuary which is a rescue home for animals in need. How was the idea of it born? How far off are you on making it a reality?
Creating a sanctuary space is something I have always wanted to do. In 2016 I adopted my first greyhound, Stacey, from Brightside Farm Sanctuary in Cygnet, Tasmania. I hadn't experienced the incredible nature of greyhounds before adopting Stacey. She showed me how funny, loving and lazy greyhounds are - the ultimate lounge lizards! Thanks to Emma, who runs Brightside, I began to learn more about the cruel plight of greyhounds in Australia, and I felt compelled to devote my life to finding ways to help these divine dogs.
Currently, Rainbow Animal Sanctuary is looking for a property to buy, and researching the best style of accommodation to build for the greyhounds. The money is there to buy the land, but fundraising will be needed to build accommodation for the dogs. I don't want to build the old-fashioned concrete cages with wire doors, so am busy designing little cottages. If you 'd like to help with fundraising ideas please do get in touch! And keep up to date at www.rainbowanimalsanctuary.com.auYour childhood was difficult and we see the description of it in your book. However, there must have been good times, too. What is your fondest memory of the time?
I loved my siblings, an older sister and younger brother. We had a lot of fun doing things outside, like riding bikes and skateboards, playing ball games, swinging on the clothesline, simple things.
I remember helping my father glue, sand and polish the pull-along wooden toys he made to sell at craft markets when I was young. We worked outside in the garage, a simple structure of tin, with many holes and I hate to think how many spiders hiding in the cracks! In summer we baked, in winter our feet felt the chill through the concrete floor as our noses inhaled the strong perfume of the kerosene heater close by our knees. Watching him work then let me see his joyful and creative side, beautiful memories.
And most of all, I remember time spent with my Nanna, learning to sew, knit, crochet, draw, paint, and looking after sick ducklings. We kept them warm in her knitted tea-cosies, fed them frequently and raised them. I can still hear their little cheeps. Nanna taught me to love, to be compassionate, and to value all life. Nanna gave me the greatest gift - hope.Reading your memoir, anyone would agree that you are a woman who turned the negatives into positive. What helps you stay positive and going in life?
Wow, I am so happy to read that! In writing my memoir I wanted to share my journey, to give voice to the younger me, but in a positive way that gives hope.
Everything changed for me once I realised I had always believed I was a victim. Because I was deeply traumatised at such a young age, I didn't know what life without that pain felt like. In that space, I had felt that life happened to me. I began studying natural therapies in 2012, particularly Psychosomatic Therapy, and began to understand that I am responsible for how I feel, in any moment, and that I always have a choice in how I feel. Studying KaHuna Massage also helped me become more comfortable in my physical body, which helped me begin to communicate better. I have studied a lot of natural/intuitive therapies and applied them in practice with clients, and am constantly amazed by the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to love.
As a victim of abuse, I didn't like to ask for help. In recent years this has been made very clear to me, and I've learned to ask for help when I need it, and more importantly perhaps, to be open to receiving help. Recovery is an inner journey, but it is not a solo journey. I will be forever grateful to all who have walked beside me during my journey of healing and growth.When you were going through the stalking and abuse, who was the one person who stuck by you?
My father believed me without question, even before the night he caught the stalker by the trouser leg. Sadly, he was unable to maintain his hold that night.Having been through so much and come out of it stronger, what advice would you like to give to anyone who finds himself/herself in a situation like this?
Ask for help, and if you don't receive it, ask again. Be loud, don't take no for an answer, you don't have to suffer in silence and you don't have to go it alone.What inspired you to tell your story? How challenging was it?
I was inspired to tell my story in the hope that if just one person suffering abuse, stalking or violence realised they weren't alone, that it is okay to ask for help, and if help isn't offered to ask again, and again until it is, then a life might be changed for the better.
I was inspired to tell my story once I realised that, although I cannot undo Martin Bryant's violence, I could share my story to raise funds and save the lives of animals. Martin killed some of my animals, so for me, that possibility alleviates some of the pain.
A big reason I held back for many years too, was out of respect for all who have suffered as a result of the eventual massacre at Port Arthur in 1996. But, during my own healing journey, I realised that hearing other's stories can awaken the courage in survivors of violence and trauma to give voice to their own experiences. I felt if sharing my story gave just one other person the courage to share theirs, and provide themselves with healing as a result, then it was worth it. As a writer, an editor and an animal rescue advocate, my passion is to help all beings have a stronger voice.
After about five years of healing with the help of natural therapies and incredible friends supporting me, I attended an intuitive writing workshop in Hawaii to begin writing my first book. I planned to write a comedy, a cute book featuring talking animals as the main characters, a great fundraiser for Rainbow Animal Sanctuary I thought... What came out was the first chapter of my memoir. I cried, I vomited in shock as the memories threw themselves at me, and I said, "No! No, I can't do this!" But I was supported, by my partner, by other survivors or trauma, and by friends who understood my journey and how important it was to get it out of me and onto the paper.
Then I returned home to Tasmania and continued. It was incredibly challenging! I cried as I wrote, I protested, I comfort ate and gained weight, and I was incredibly grateful for the companionship of my animal family!You book SHAME, GUILT, AND SURVIVING MARTIN BRYANT is your first and only book as of now and was very warmly received by the audience. Since it is such a special book in itself, how does that make you feel?
I feel so honoured and grateful for the response I have received from my book, it has been more than I could ever have dreamed of. I heard recently from a friend that she had sent a copy to a trauma therapist, and that therapist is now sharing the book with clients. To hear that, to know that this little book is making a difference in this way, made every moment of heartache during the writing process absolutely worth it!Do you plan to continue writing memoirs or will you also like to write nonfiction stories?
I plan to continue to edit other people's memoirs. My story needed to come out, but at this stage I don't think I will write another memoir myself.What is the next book you are working on? What is it about?
Currrently I am working on a comedy, it's fiction, ridiculous and great fun to write! I have rediscovered that writing can actually be incredibly good fun!
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