We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the moment when my life changed forever’. Some of us can even pinpoint it in our own lives; the birth of a child, the acceptance letter to a degree programme, the decision to make a momentous change. The Turning Point is an anthology of personal accounts, showcasing the extraordinary and unexpected moments that have completely altered everyday lives.
“This anthology was born of an international writing competition. Writers sometimes need accessible challenges to get them up and typing, and the competition asked them to write about a turning point in their life. The writing astonished us — it was as if the writers had taken note of the English poet Sir Philip Sydney’s muse simply instructing, ‘look in thy heart and write’”
– Editor Gareth St. John Thomas (Introduction – The Turning Point)
The Voices of The Turning Point
The stories that are featured in The Turning Point are deeply personal accounts of the human experience, each as different from one another as the people who wrote them.
With stories ranging from finding first love to experiencing first tragedy, from discovering family secrets to uncovering personal truths… there is an intimacy to these stories that we were honoured to witness and excited to share.
In the lead up to release we asked the contributors of The Turning Point to join us in creating this exciting project – The Voices of The Turning Point.
Organised into 6 parts, just like the book, this collection of audio recordings features stories of life altering events, read by the people who lived them.
We hope you enjoy these recordings and the other stories featured in The Turning Point – you never know, maybe one of them will be your own life’s ‘turning point’.
Skin to sea
“It did not matter that I could not swim. The ocean’s waters lapped and grazed at my hip bones and I revelled in the understanding of what it meant to be free.”
My name is Vicky Lopez. I’m 22-years old and I grew up in South San Francisco, California . In the time since I’ve left Santa Barbara, I’ve reflected on the cluster of memories I collected during my four years there.
This story is one of those memories, one which I felt particularly compelled to share as it seems to have left the most lasting effect on my being. I hope you enjoyed it.
Note from the blue
“The moment that changed my life was not accompanied by thunderclaps, fireworks or cymbals as one might expect from a life-changing moment. In fact, it was a very ordinary day. What could be life-changing about a piece of paper slipped under a windscreen wiper?”
When Stephanie thought back to a moment that changed her life, one event stood out. This, because the actions of the two people involved were completely out of character. Now 60 and about to retire, she intends to devote more time to writing. Stephanie is a member of the Creative Writers @ Museum group, in her home town of Northampton UK.
A New Life
“And there he was — red face, puffy eyes … indistinguishable from his nursery mates nearby. But was he? I thought I could see a bit of his mother in those eyes and that frown surely came from my side of the family.”
Roy Innes, age 81, lives on a tiny gulf island in Canada’s Salish Sea. He is the author of the Inspector Coswell of the RCMP crime novels. His short stories have been finalists in numerous contests and his poetry included in a west coast anthology. The inspiration for his Turning Point short story was memory of the birth of his first child, a son (now middle aged).
Just following orders
“I muttered to my seatmate, ‘Can’t believe we just lost our freedom …!’ And so it was, for this nineteen year old, with a year of college behind him, as he joined young enlistees from all over, to pursue officer training, via the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC).”
Bill Younglove’s UCLA doctorate was in curriculum, followed by Holocaust Studies Specializations; teaching humanities for 57 years in secondary schools and colleges. Writings include a “Children’s Holocaust Literature” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, Holocaust Narrative Literature Learnings, and Critical Insights into Anne Frank’s Diary. Numerous articles appeared in California English. Pedagogical approaches have been shared in dozens of speaking engagements, worldwide. NCTE awarded him Classroom Teacher Excellence and Intellectual Freedom Recognitions.
Once In A Lifetime
“This became a point when I understood my own insignificance when faced with a life-and death situation. Along with a tumult of sensations to do with appreciating nature, relaxing in my own solitude, and trying to protect myself from life’s predators.”
Karen Lethlean is a retired English teacher. With fiction Barbaric Yawp, Ken*Again, Pendulum Papers. She has won a few awards through Australian and UK competitions. In her other life Karen is a triathlete who has done Hawaii Ironman championships twice. After working as a volunteer at the World Swimming Championships in Perth in 1991, Western Australia she took a holiday to Carnarvon, and encountered this shark feeding event.
KATE MARSHALL FLAHERTY
“How strange, in these corona times, I am more afraid of a tot on a trike, a super spreader unaware of her distance, than the closeness of a 900-pound bear, on his hinds, 6-inch claws dangling, sniffing my scent.”
Kate Marshall Flaherty is an award-winning poet who has recently rambled into prose. “Bear” is one of a few pieces that she wrote as a prose parallel to a poem. She had five books of poetry and has been published in numerous international anthologies. Kate lives in Toronto, Canada. where she guides StillPoint Writing and Editing Workshops online and hopefully in person again. See her performance poetry at https://katemarshallflaherty.ca
MARK R.C. LOVELL
“Physically, it helped us avoid interrogation, internment, being split up and possibly worse. But it influenced me mentally, too. I learnt that kindness exists in unexpected places; that languages are there to be used; and that my mother would have gone through hell for me …”
Mark Lovell, aged 86, was born in England. His early years involved much foreign travel but his university education was in Cambridge UK. He emigrated in 1976, became a Canadian citizen and lives in Montreal.
His main career was in marketing research. His non-fiction books include ‘The Fugitive Mind’ and ‘Saturday Parent’ under the pseudonym Peter Rowlands.
Now he paints watercolours and writes about significant experiences- while his memory holds.
“You’d probably benefit from attending playgroup,’ said the maternal child health nurse. Her name escapes me, but those words never will. It was then, in the depths of post-natal depression and anxiety that I reached out for help.”
Amal Abou-Eid is an educator, author and mother to 3 wonderful boys. Born and raised in Melbourne, Amal started writing children’s books to help educate people about her Islamic faith and cultural heritage. Her story, ‘Playgroup’ details her journey to becoming an author and details the moments, words and people that helped make it happen.
A Life-Changing Moment
“‘The answer to my prayers,’ I whispered, then I picked up my son and danced around the room. He giggled as I sang, ‘Paul, we are going to see elephants, lions and giraffes.’
The minute my husband returned from work, I pulled him into the lounge and declared, ‘We are going to live in South Africa.’”
I am a 69-year-old retired teacher who lives in Ayrshire in Scotland. I have always experienced a deep-rooted need to travel. The inspiration for my piece of writing came from the realisation that most turning points in my life, allowing me to travel, came from reading an advert for employment: South Africa, Botswana, England and back to Scotland, London, to name but a few.
“I may have looked like these other people but I made a solemn promise. ‘I will not be one of them.’”
Born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1947, I lived there until my early twenties. Roamed around British Columbia, Alberta and Europe, finally settling in the mountains of BC to carve out a life in the forest, close to a lake, building a garden and a place in the rural community with teaching, yoga, writing, hiking and music. This piece, Choosing Sides, remains a vivid memory and a defining moment for my subsequent choices.
I chose the writing career
“I can’t stop writing. It’s part of me. I wrote when I was a child and now into my senior years. The muse doesn’t stop. Did I make the right decision back in 1980? Yes.”
I was born in England in 1944 and came to Canada with my parents in 1957. I always had a passion for reading books. When I ran out of other writers’ stories I wrote my own. This is the story of the turning point of my life when I sold my first romantic novel to Simon & Schuster, New York.
“Realization tore through me like a chilling Albanian katabatic wind ripping my breath away.
You saved my life.”
Award-winning author, Dimity Powell writes and reviews for children and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. She loves eating cake with ice cream, sailing on the beam and writing in her diary although combining all three at once makes her nauseous. She has lived, worked and travelled extensively throughout Europe including Greece and credits life as her best inspiration. Dimity lives on the Gold Coast, Australia. Discover more at www.dimitypowell.com
Pictured here as a teen around the time this story takes place
“Three sentences. That was all it would have taken to let him know that I appreciated him and his kindness towards me. The sadness had been bearable but the regret was sharp, a rapier of pain”
Gayle has had an interesting life, rich in experiences. Living in a hut in the Amazon Jungle, trekking to Machu Picchu, working the land in the eco village Findhorn, her plays performed in the USA, UAE and Australia, and her short stories published internationally. Most important of all, she has always tried to not take each moment for granted. She lives in Australia where elements of the story took place
“We all grow up, and ahead was a huge spectrum of experience waiting to be savoured. With all its pain, loss and broken dreams, it is still a marvellous world.”
Blanche is 92 years old and is a proudly working-class woman and artist living in the north east of England. She was in the Women’s Land Army, she was married for 36 years and had six children. She has lived all over the world and had a career in social care. She loves reading poetry and painting landscapes and is proud to be published for the first time.
“The sad irony is that this tragedy led me to become a far more complete person. If only it had not come at such a great cost.”
Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines, and Aotearoa New Zealand – when coronavirus allows! He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin, Romanian, Spanish.
Sailing towards the bar
“Whipping out a torch, I made for the bridge. The bow of another ship was wedged into ours for’ard of the crew’s accommodation. I buttonholed the second mate. ‘What do you want me to do?’
‘Put on your life jacket and say a prayer.’”
Brisbane-based, Tony was apprenticed as a fitter and turner. After qualifying, he went to sea as a ship’s engineer. Later graduating from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Laws, he practised as a barrister for 30 years.
Tony has written two novels, Deeply With The Sun In Our Eyes (2019) and The English Colonel’s Wives (2021). Prolific reading, seagoing experiences and fascinating court battles have provided the inspiration for his writing.
I need to believe
“The heavy scent of gardenia hits me as I round the corner, no harbour breeze here, the air is caught, hangs timeless, thick and sweet and rich and if I were a fairy I would really like to live here.”
Deborah Huff-Horwood is an emerging writer from Canberra who creates picture books, middle-grade fiction, short stories and poems. She is vigorously pursuing this new career after having been a primary school teacher, costume designer, and pastry chef. She has won multiple prizes and is published in seven anthologies. This story was inspired by the scent of a gardenia, which reminded her of her beloved Nana. Deborah can be found at www.deborahhuff-horwood.com
A conversation without words
“I didn’t want to share with anyone what had happened. I wanted to keep it in my heart, cherishing that one could tell the most memorable story in a conversation without words.”
Bettina, 56, is a creative non-fiction writer in Sydney, Australia. She had no idea that a massage could change her life, but that is exactly what happened. On 31 December 2016, a 90-minute spiritual dance became the catalyst for change and transformation in midlife. A Conversation without Words is an extract from her memoir Dare to Dance.
“I became aware of the significance of the missing letter H as soon as I started school aged five, in a small town in the south of England. It was 1962. In the evenings, after our meal, I would sit on my mum’s knee at the small Formica table and play the game I had invented, ‘Say what I say’.
‘It’s threepence Mum, that’s how everyone here says it.’
‘Truppence,’ my mother laughed at herself in her soft Tipperary accent”
Rosaleen Kavanagh, a retired teacher based in Cambridge, England, recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London. The inspiration for ‘Threepenny Bit’, came from a reflection on her dual British/Irish identity. The story explores the strategies an aspiring child from a minority background takes in order to integrate. Rose has been featured in the Guardian newspaper and is currently working on a historical fiction novel.
The lady in the blue dress
“She was skipping along the footpath opposite her house, when an old lady stopped her and uttered, ‘Hello. You must be Betty’s daughter.’
‘No,’ said the little girl. ‘I am Beryl’s daughter.’
‘No,’ said the lady. ‘I am sure you are Betty Kelly’s daughter.’”
I am 71 years old and live in Tauranga, New Zealand. After I joined a U3A memoir writing group, and with my mother’s picture as inspiration, this memoir became part of my life story. Our origins are an important part of our lives, and although the first years of my life were a lie, finding out the truth about my birth mother helped explain my relationship with my father, adoptive mother and siblings.
JOY M. MAWBY
The yellow envelope
“I started looking through the very last box, which had resided under her bed. Right at the bottom of it, underneath a pile of letters and cards, was a flat, square box tied with string. On the lid in Mum’s handwriting were the words ‘Jim’s voice’.”
Joy lives in Anglesey, North Wales. She runs a local writing group and was involved in the production of two anthologies of work, by Anglesey writers and in the first Writing Festival to be held on the Island. She writes short stories, plays and poetry. She has also written and published, three memoirs of other peoples’ lives.
‘The Yellow Envelope’ is part of her own memoir, written for her grandchildren.
“The crinkly paper bunched underneath my bottom and the dingy room was dim with one lightbulb. He sat with legs crossed while she perched on the rusting chair.
Turning my eyes to the doctors I spit two words: ‘Fuck you.’”
Diane Sims was raised on the Northern cusp of one of Canada’s famous Great Lakes. She has been an award-winning journalist, with national print/broadcast media. However, her position as editor of The Manitoulin Expositor remains dearest to her heart.
She is the author of five books. Diane has had a nearly lifelong relationship with Multiple Sclerosis, and she is devoted to advocating for accessibility.
Diane, her husband Dennis and their four cats live in Stratford, Ont.
JESSICA L. FOLK
The 4×6 Photograph
“I don’t know when I stopped being the carefree young girl in that photo. I have this evidence of a family that was not yet broken — a 4×6 photograph of a new beginning. I have proof of a family on the precipice of something new.”
Jessica L. Folk is 31 years young and lives in Bowling Green, KY where she teaches creative writing at Western Kentucky University. Her story was inspired by a photograph of herself and her family that she found collecting dust in her sister’s baby photo album. When she came across the photo she instantly thought, “They don’t even know what’s coming next.” This story captures her musings about that time.
All is not fair
“It was pointless fighting for explanations and closure. Sometimes you just had to take a deep breath, sit up straighter and carry on.”
Spinner of yarns, fair weather gardener, adoring grandmother, scrabble addict and lover of wine at sunset. And other times.
Marian Penman grew up in England, lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, then Melbourne, Australia, and is now enjoying retirement in New Zealand where she keeps chickens, grows her own vegetables, and spins the wool from her own sheep.
She has had short stories published in anthologies internationally, and her first book, ‘Losing My Marbles’ was highly commended in the Federation of Australian Writers Christina Stead Award. Her second novel, ‘A Question of Loyalty’, deals with the ripple effect of indecent behaviour within a family and is available through Amazon.
Order your copy today!
The Turning Point
The Turning Point is a rare glimpse into the most important and fascinating moments of people’s lives. A collection of extraordinary entries received in an international writing competition, it contains stories about everyday people, from all over the world. Find out about the moment when love came along in a note under a windscreen wiper, when the death of a new friend inspired a teenager to live life to its fullest, and more, in this captivating insight into the human condition.