Monthly Archives: April 2010

My appearance on The Circle talking about Find Your Tribe …

Okay, so I’m a techno-dummy and it’s taken me a week to work out how to load my Circle appearance onto my blog. (Sigh … it’s difficult being me).  Anyway … here it is. My appearance on my fav daytime tv show The Circle.  I had as much fun as it looks like I’m having (did that even make sense?).  I had a ball.  Those girls? They’re SO from my tribe.

The Circle

Sunday Mail column for Sunday 25 April 2010

There are many great things about being a writer.  You get to work from home in your pyjamas and write Very Professional Emails while eating cornflakes and watching The Circle. Then there are the millions of fans.  The big fat royalty cheques. The Oprah interviews. The fame … Oh hang on a second, I appear to be talking about Stephenie Meyer.

But it’s not all glamour. In fact there’s one thing the majority of authors loathe: book signings. This is because unless you are Stephenie Meyer or Bryce Courtenay or have appeared on MasterChef book signings can be deeply humiliating experiences.  Publicists however do not understand this. Publicists envisage huge crowds flocking to you, desperate to buy numerous copies of your book and lavishing you with lots of author-love.  This is because most publicists have at some point worked for Bryce Courtenay who has huge crowds flocking to him of readers wanting to buy lots of copies of his latest book while lavishing him with lots of author-love. A lot of hugging happens at a BC signing. Alas the Not-Bryce-Courtenay author sits there alone with a huge pile of books while shoppers give them a wide berth accompanied by sympathetic glances. Sometimes you will hear a shopper say, “Who is that?” or “Why is she eating all those minties?” (Look I was hungry).  Clearly there’s no hugging. Instead the author tends to look forlorn as they sit there wondering why their therapist won’t answer their text-messages.

I had a particularly humiliating book signing experience a few years ago.  There I was sitting at a little table in the book department with my big pile of books and a bowl of chocolates and my big fake smile. And I sat there alone for forty minutes trying not to look like I was battling a mental illness. Finally, a woman came over to me. “Hello,” I said, trying to keep the neediness from my voice.  “Hello,” she smiled back.  Then she looked down at the table and said, “Can I have one of these?” “Absolutely!” I cried.  And she took a chocolate and walked off.

Yep.

Speaking of the glamorous life of a published author, the Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) has partnered up with Allen & Unwin to unearth the next Harry Potter or Diary of A Wimpy Kid.  Think of it as Literary Idol. Sort of.  Okay, not really. What I’m saying is that if you’re a budding author with a manuscript suitable for children aged 8-13 years – this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Up to 10 emerging children’s fiction writers will be selected to work with editors from Allen & Unwin to develop high-quality manuscripts during a week-long intensive program held at Queensland Writers Centre in October. You must have a completed children’s manuscript in order to be eligible. Applications close 21 May. For more details go to www.qwc.asn.au > Programs and Projects > National Programs or call the QWC 07 3842 9922.

It’s 5am and I’m awake because?

Because it’s Murphy’s Law that when you really need to get a good night’s sleep – you won’t.  I’m off to Melbourne today with Brad and Ava to do two days of media for Find Your Tribe. There’ll be some bookstore visits. An interview with the Herald Sun (or Sun Herald … I get confused), an ABC Breakfast Radio thing with Red Symons and a live appearance on The Circle on Tuesday (Channel 10, 10-Midday).

I think I’m looking forward to The Circle most of all and not just because I know one of the lovely hosts – Ms Chrissie Swan (who is in person exactly how she comes across on the teev:  laugh-out-loud funny and utterly genuine).  No, I’m a bit of a Circle fan.  10am is when Ava goes down for her sleep, so I’ll often put it on and listen to it while I’m writing, emailing, cleaning kitchen, picking food off Buster’s head (thrown there by Ava in her highchair).  What I like about it is that the four female hosts have proven that you don’t need conflict and bitchiness for a women’s panel show to work. You don’t need the The View’s Elizabeth vs Rosie dynamic.  The Circle works because the women are authentic, they’re from the same tribe and the focus is on laughter not squabbling.  Sure they’re all different with different backgrounds but at the risk of sounding hokey, the focus is on joy. Not controversy.  And whoever thought to put Yumi Stynes on morning television deserves a frickin’ TV award. She’s HILARIOUS and totally unpredictable and just a little bit wicked.  So I watch Denise and Gorgi and Yumi and Chrissie and I think, “Yeah, I reckon they’d be from my tribe” – because they’re inclusive and funny and not afraid to be themselves. That’s why I like the show. That’s why it works.  Here’s hoping I don’t completely screw up on Tuesday. xxx

The Way We Live: Sunday 18 April 2010

I realise I stand alone in many things. The fact I’ve never watched an episode of NCIS, CSI or SVU. My willingness to admit to buying Jason Donovan’s Ten Good Reasons able (there weren’t, by the way).  My need to know why Vince – the guy in the Shamwow ads – feels the need to wear a headset.  And I figure I may be the only person in the country avoiding watching the new series of Underbelly. Avoiding it the way certain overseas freighters avoid designated shipping lanes. The way Tony Abbott avoids board shorts. The way Kevin Rudd avoids push-ups. The way … I could keep going with this but you get the picture. Hey, I loved the first series. It was really well executed (no pun intended).  Then, we had Underbelly Two:  A Tale of Two Cities.  I was a bit meh about it. There seemed to be lots of naked people rolling around on dollar bills speaking in dodgy Kiwi accents. And now we have Underbelly 3: The Golden Mile.  But this one’s completely different apparently. It’s about um, hookers and drug barons. Excellent.  I’ve already heard a whisper that “Underbelly 4: Flogging A Dead Horse” is in the pipeline.

But who am I to criticise? You see this whole Underbelly thing got me thinking. All of us – you, me, Channel Nine, Roy Jones Junior – so often have an issue with knowing when to walk away*.

Whether it’s the right time to leave a job, a relationship, the work Christmas party (seriously, three karaoke songs from anyone is enough) – most of us seem to have difficulty gauging when to call it a day. And how about food? Good grief. We hear that inner-voice saying, “Put down the pork chop and step away from the buffet” and we hit the mute button.

In the 2003 best seller French Women Don’t Get Fat author Mireille Guiliano explained why only 11% of French people are obese despite having a diet high in cheese, wine, bread and did-I-mention-cheese-already?

They walk a lot. They savour their food rather than wolfing it down. They drink loads of water. And – and here’s the biggie – they don’t eat until they’re full.  Radical, I know. Instead those clever Frenchies stick to a three-bite rule.

In an interview with ReadersRead.com, Gulliano said, “I love pastry, chocolate and ice cream and eat them all the time. How much is enough, though? I believe the first two or three bites provide the most satisfaction. So, again, I indulge but in moderation, and without thinking I exercise a natural portion control.”

Three bites is a new strategy for me. To date I’ve been going for the lick the bowl clean approach. So from Underbelly I got a new approach to avoiding an Over Belly. Maybe I should tune in after all.

*Well all of us except Kenny Rogers who so totally knew when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, when to walk away and when to run … to the plastic surgeon).

The Way We Live: Sunday Mail column

So I’m staring at another birthday. This week I turn 38. WHAT? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was putting on my best acid wash jeans and waistcoat, glazing my perm in industrial strength hairspray and heading to Transformers to Wang-Chung the night away?   (Seriously for a period of time there in the early 90s my hair was so rock hard from hairspray it doubled as a bike helmet).

Still. Here I am. Staring at thirty-eight. I may be perm-free in 2010 but am I really any wiser? Twenty years ago I seemed to have more joy in my life. Possibly because I was wagging uni lectures and hanging out at the Rec Club to see the Riptides. But there was certainly a bigger focus on joy.

I heard something last week that made me stop and think. It was from Elizabeth Gilbert – the author of that mega-seller Eat Pray Love. Stop rolling your eyes. I know her book divided people into two camps. The couldn’t-put-it-down camp and the this-is-self-indulgent-drivel camp. Personally I liked it. And I like Gilbert. Any woman who decides she’s going to hang out in Rome for three months and just eat is my kinda gal. Anyway. So I’m watching a TV interview with Gilbert and she’s talking about how crazy her life has been post-Eat Pray Love. And then she said, “I’ve worked out I’m my best person when I have less on my plate.”

And for whatever reason that quote resonated with me.  Cause you know what? I’m drowning at the moment. I just can’t seem to get through my daily to do-list.  And I don’t know about you but the requests just keep coming.  Will I just read this primary school student’s 33,000-word novel? (Huh?) Will I organise this present? Will I volunteer on Friday? Will I turn up to this event? My immediate response is, “I’d love to but I really just can’t”. Weirdly, it comes out of my mouth as, “Of course I can.”

But when I’m stressed and my life is crazy busy, I’m not a great person to live with.  And I think Gilbert is right – for me anyway – I am my best person when I have less on my plate. I’m happier. Which in turns means I can give more. And instead of doing a half-assed job on a dozen things, I can give proper attention and care to say six. Okay, three.

Jo Bassett is the creator of Living Savvy, a lifestyle website that helps women achieve that work/life balance (see www.livingsavvy.com.au). I asked Jo for her thoughts.

“In our world there is still kudos gained from being ‘busy’.  There is a misbelief that busy people are important people or doing important things. In my quest to live a savvy life I endeavour to live a life that is full and filling not busy, juggled and stressed.”

Full and filling not busy, juggled and stress. I can’t think of a better present to give myself this birthday.

FIRST SUNDAY CLUB: April 2010 Southside Education

I know what you’re thinking this morning: “Hurrah for elasticised pyjama pants!” Or is that just me as I contemplate Easter egg number 43?  (I refuse to feel bad. As someone once said, “Chocolate is nature’s way of making up for Mondays”).

Wherever you are, I hope you get the chance to relax this Easter.

That said, I’m here to remind you that it’s the first Sunday of the month. That means today is all about the First Sunday Club.

This month I’m asking readers to donate $10 to a cause close to home: Southside Education.  Southside Education at Sunnybank is a school for indigenous and non-indigenous students who require a different approach to schooling.

When you come from a stable family, school is just, well, school. As a child I took for granted the ease with which my family bought new school shoes, textbooks, uniforms and lunchboxes. My parents helped me with my homework, turned up to sporting carnivals, made cakes for the school fete and made sure I never missed a day of school unless I was legitimately sick (I did once draw dots on my face to convince them I had measles but they didn’t fall for it. )

For the students who attend Southside Education – life isn’t necessarily quite so rosy. Many have suffered the type of social and emotional trauma that you and I would find hard to comprehend. They often have huge gaps in their education, having missed large chunks of school. Some of the girls have been in and out of foster care and are well known to Child Protection.  Many turn up on their first day cloaked in extreme sadness, arriving with nothing.  A number of students have no stable accommodation.

Yet, according to principal Colleen Mitrow, they turn up full of hope. They turn up with the goal of turning their lives around by getting an education.

“To try to make education a reality for these young people Southside Education provides books, healthy meals each day, school uniforms and sports uniforms and shoes that help these students to feel included in our school community and the wider community. Southside students are proud of their school which is based on a different model of education that they believe will enable them to build a promising future and eventually gain economic independence.”

However it is often a long journey to help mend a child’s broken spirit and the Southside staff work with great sensitivity and understanding. Students are urged to become kind and active citizens, to aim high academically and to explore their many talents. Last year 95% of Southside’s Year 12 students graduated with a Year 12 Certificate and/or a Vocational Educational & Training TAFE qualification. Many have now begun further study.

Your $10 this month will go towards paying for uniforms, shoes, textbooks and even meals for these girls.  Send your cheque to Southside Education
PO Box 234, Coopers Plains, QLD 4108

Sunday Mail column for Sunday 28 March 2010

The first time was because of forks.  Then Chewie. Next was a platter of the best Indian food you’ve ever tasted followed by a fire alarm. And this last time? Neighbourhood Watch.

I’m talking about all the different ways I’ve met my neighbours over the past five years.

When we moved to the Gold Coast, we met Mandy, Kayne and their toddler Savannah on our first night in our new unit. We knocked on their door begging to borrow some cutlery. That introduction resulted in a fabulous friendship involving many pizza nights and one trip to the hospital when Kayne was away and Mandy knocked on our door with a gravely ill toddler in her arms.  Our next move was to Townsville and into the house next door to Matt and Deb and their two kids Jordan and Demi.  It was Jordan who called out to me from the branches of a tree one afternoon asking (as only a seven-year-old can) if he could come over and play with our dog because he could tell Chewie really wanted him to.  And so began a Dennis the Menace style relationship with Jordan and a friendship with Matt and Deb that will last a lifetime. Deb was the type of neighbour who left plates of freshly cooked scones on our verandah. The next move was back to Brisbane and into an inner-city apartment.  There were the fabulous Indian students next door who appeared one evening with a platter of home cooked Rogan Josh and samosas (you’ve gotta love neighbours who can cook). And Mel, the doctor, who I only got to know during a fire drill a few months before we left but who I immediately knew was from my tribe.  And this last week, in our new home, our neighbour Clive came over on our first day with a Neighbourhood Watch newsletter and an offer to mow our front lawn at the same time he does his own.

Today is Neighbour Day. Today you have the best excuse to go next door and meet your neighbours.

The day’s slogan is, “The community you want starts at your front door” and it’s so true. So many of us long for a sense of community and yet we live our lives online – we’ll chat to strangers on Facebook but we can’t be bothered to meet the person who lives just next door. Yet great neighbours can enrich our lives.

Neighbour Day was founded by Andrew’ Heslop. Here are Andrew’s top three tips for meeting your neighbours.

1. Simply knock on the door, introduce yourself and leave your mobile number.

2. Bake a cake – or some other delicious food, jam or preserves – that always opens doors and take it over.

3. Ask your neighbour’s kids to your children’s party or to your next BBQ.

As for me, I’m going to introduce myself to the older lady who lives to our right. Step one?  I’m off to whip up some brownies!

Sunday Mail Column for Sunday 21 March 2010

I’m tired. Bone-weary. Exhausted. I should be used to moving by now. After all, we’ve done four moves in five years as Brad completes his training with Queensland Health. Ironically the move previous to this one – the move from Townsville to Brisbane in 2009 – was the easiest. Despite the fact it happened when Ava was just seven weeks old.  That’s because as a sleep-deprived, slightly nutty new mother I insisted demanded calmly and rationally suggested we pay for an unpacking service. And so these three Mary Poppins-esque women swept in and worked their magic. By the time they left five hours later our apartment was set up. Beds were made.  Pots and pans put away. Fresh flowers even appeared in a vase. I was so grateful I considered writing them into my will.

This time our budget didn’t stretch to pay for the Mary Poppins Trio.  This time we were on our own, literally, since none of our extended family actually live in Brisbane anymore. This time it was a freaking nightmare since I had underestimated the chaos that one small toddler and one rambunctious dog can cause.  And so the unpacking went f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Actually it’s still going. There’s a box next to me as I type. I don’t even want to know what’s in it. I think I’m going to drape a tablecloth over it and pretend it’s a side table.  See how bad it’s gotten? I’m in cardboard box denial.

But here’s the really stupid bit – I had numerous offers of help. Okay, so my family weren’t around but so many of my closest girlfriends rang and emailed and texted and rang again offering to come over. To mind Ava. To make us a meal. To unpack some boxes. So why didn’t I take them up on it? Why? Because I’m an idiot.

I think sometimes as women we’re really, really, really good at offering help and pretty terrible at accepting it ourselves. Clinical psychologist Dr Clare Rosoman agrees.

“These days women put a lot of pressure on themselves to excel in all areas of their lives: from motherhood to career to paper-machee making. This creates an expectation that they should be able to handle everything and that asking for help indicates weakness or even failure. This is an unhealthy source of internal pressure that is often confirmed and fuelled by media images of perfect women and societal pressures. The more women struggle to cope in silence the more the myth of the perfect-all-coping-woman is perpetuated. Asking for help is the healthiest way of managing stress and the best, most hands-on way to break down the myth of the perfect woman. Every time a woman asks for help she strengthens the relationship with the person reached out to and she present a more realistic, healthy image of how women really are.”

Friends, next time you offer to make me a casserole or babysit – I’ll be accepting. And I’m putting the Mary Poppins Trio on speed-dial.