Finding joy ... Erica Harrison.
Sometimes the darkest moments spark our greatest transformations and the things that make us different become our biggest blessings.
The challenge is enduring the often excruciating period that precedes the metamorphosis - the period of being curled before we are unfurled.
Bondi local, Erica Harrison, knows this.
Expressive ... an 'eloquent, athletic appendage'.
Four years ago, the 34-year-old avid runner was thrown from her motorbike when it was hit by a car.
She was critically injured and one of her legs was so shattered the doctors were unsure it would ever fully heal. Tenuously held together by a rod, screws and plates, she was confined to bed and unable to walk for six months.
Hurting, emotionally and physically, her outlet and expression of joy - running - was not an option.
Learning to accept herself ... the little girl grown up.
"It was a really dark time," the freelance writer and filmmaker says. "My body had been drastically changed. I couldn't run... It completely threw me - my whole identity had been lost."
At the depths of depression, she contemplated death, but instead chose to express her pain by putting pen to paper.
She began writing a darkly humorous tale about a little girl who is born with a tail.
In Roald Dahl rhyming couplet-style, she began to tell the story of the little girl whose unusual appendage is also her unique means of expressing her emotions. It flicks when she is angry, wags when she is happy and curls when she is shy.
"When she's a kid, it's cool - it's beautiful and expressive," Harrison explains of the story, A Cautionary Tail. But "when she becomes a teen, it's not so cool. People think it's weird."
The little girl becomes so embarrassed by her exceptional attribute that she attempts to have it removed. What follows is the little girl's journey to reclaim lost joy as she struggles between conformity and self-expression.
"She has something that brings a lot of joy, experiences a loss and finds herself letting go of old ideas."
While it was unintentional, the parrallels between the little girl's story and her own are not lost on Harrison. They both experienced the loss of, "something that brings you joy and [it's about] finding a way back to that joy inside yourself," she says.
"The world is always going to throw crazy things at you and unexpected things - it's finding that [happiness] within yourself."
What she also discovered was that, "whenever you lose something, it's making space for something new."
Little did she know quite how big that new thing would be and what fire she was igniting with her small spark of written expression.
After a year of painfully slow progress, "I was quite depressed and if I could write just one rhyming couplet a day [that was good]," she had the finished product. She collaborated with close friend and illustrator, Simon Rippingale, to bring the tale to life after the pair realised it would make a beautiful animated short story.
They won a grant from Screen NSW and sent the script out to their dream cast. "We were like 'what have we got to lose?'."
Nothing, it seemed. In a stroke of serendipitous luck, just as they had completely run out of money, their dream cast of Barry Otto, David Wenham and Cate Blanchett agreed to come on board.
The big names helped to give the project the funding kick it needed and last week the 14 minute film premiered at Flickerfest, Australia's only Academy accredited & BAFTA recognised International Short Film Festival.
As well as being screened around Australia with the Flickerfest tour, Harrison and Rippingale have entered the film in other film festivals around Australia and internationally. Penguin is publishing the picture book and Harrison is currently working with the digital team at Heckler, who did post-production for the film, to create an interactive e-Book.
"It's wonderful. It's a bit of a whirlwind - not what I expected," she says, remarking that it has been a collaborative effort facilitated, in part, by the kindness of "complete strangers" who contributed funding for the film.
In the end, just like Harrison, despite her period of darkness and feeling different, the little girl's tail "shifts and stretches and finds its shape... until its perfect coil uncurled [and] a tail unfolds into the world."
"Everyone has a tail," Harrison says. "My tail has been different things at different periods of time - the way I looked, my sexuality, my scars after the accident.
"It was a really difficult journey for me, but it helped me to be more resilient and helped me to ... realise 'this too shall pass' and the need to look inside yourself for happiness, to embrace the things that make us unique."