Friday, April 17, 2015

Look who's launching 'Motherhood & Creativity'!

OK, it's finally official...

Musician Clare Bowditch will be launching Motherhood & Creativity: The Divided Heart at Readings Carlton on Wednesday, May 6 at 6.30pm.

You can get the details here.

Clare has been the most generous champion of this book since before it even existed in print -- as you'll know if you read her lovely Preface in the new edition. She's also one warm, funny and extremely entertaining speaker, so I couldn't hope for a better launcher, lucky me.

It'll also be a chance to meet some of the other wonderful artists in the book. So please come along and introduce yourselves.

The more friendly faces I see, the less nervous I'll feel on the night. Everyone welcome!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Girls and kids and bands

I had a revealing conversation with a friend the other night, while I was telling her my dream list of overseas artists should I ever be in a position to do an international version of Motherhood & Creativity.

I had always hoped I might one day get to interview Sonic Youth musician Kim Gordon, who has recently published her memoir, Girl in a Band.

Also on my list, predictably, was Patti Smith. Although Kim Gordon's book is repeatedly compared to Smith's Just Kids, the two women seem to have very different takes on the impact of having children on their creative lives and identities.

After Gordon's daughter Coco was born in 1994, the band toured with a porta-cot in the bus, though “dripping breast milk during a video shoot is not very rock,” she writes. (If you want the full nitty-gritty on the matter of touring with kids, you can find a great -- and very detailed -- conversation between Suzanne Vega and Kim Gordon here.)

Perhaps because she and her partner, Thurston Moore, were in the same band, Gordon could make a clear comparison between the impact of kids on her life versus his, and this appears to have played a strong part in defining her experience. As a result, she is quite open about the conflict she felt between parenting and maintaining a life of rock 'n' roll.

"...after Coco was born I realised we had never talked about what kind of parents or partners we wanted to be. I'd simply assumed Thurston was supportive of feminist issues, like equal participation in child care, equal responsibilities around the house, and so forth.

"Like most new mothers, I found that no matter how just and shared you expect the experience to be, or how equal the man thinks parenting should be, it isn't. It can’t be. Most child-raising falls on women’s shoulders. This doesn’t make men bad parents, though it can make women feel alone in what they’d hoped would be an equal division of labour."

As for Patti Smith... apparently, at a talk she did in Australia a few years back, there was a question from the floor from a woman who mentioned my book and asked Smith how she coped with putting her art aside in order to raise her children.

Obviously I can't quote her answer, but it seems the question was dismissed as irrelevant -- Smith's general argument being that there is no separation between art and life, it's all part of one big creative act, so why would there be a conflict?

Ah, to be Patti Smith...

So, knowing that, I don't suppose I'll be approaching the great punk poet laureate any time soon, though I certainly don't dismiss her sentiment outright. If anything, I'm not alone in admiring the big creative act that is Patti Smith's life, though I don't know if I could ever aspire to live that way.

In Motherhood & Creativity, actor Claudia Karvan says that she has sacrificed nothing and gained everything in becoming a mother -- and I love those words.

We all exist on a spectrum in terms of how readily we combine mothering and creativity in our lives -- and there are so many variables that support or detract from this. But like most issues of the heart, to personally find something easy is not a good reason to dismiss the experience of those who struggle.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Talking on the radio

I so enjoyed talking to musicians Leah Avene and Jess Fairfax today on their PBS 106.7 FM radio program "All Our Stories" today.

I don't think I'll ever stop finding radio appearances insanely nerve-wracking, but when it's all about engaging in a conversation like this, it's also a pleasure. You can listen to today's interview here.

It was also a great chance to hear some of the musos featured in Motherhood & Creativity. Hearing the voices of Deline Briscoe, Clare Bowditch and Holly Throsby warmed the cockles of my heart!

And to top it all off, it was the non-official launch of a new song written in direct response to the book -- yes, The Divided Heart has inspired a song! In fact a whole album! -- by Melbourne singer-songwriter Suzannah Espie. Read all about it on her website here.

What an incredibly humbling thing that is, and so lovely to hear phone-calls coming in as her song was playing, asking who the singer was. A big thank you to Suzannah for allowing us to play it live for the first time on air today. It was pretty darn special.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Launching creative women

March 8 was International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate and highlight the valuable contributions women make to our world.

Musician Rose Wintergreen decided that one day was not enough, so she is featuring a month-long series of posts celebrating female artists from Australia on her fabulous Launch Bubble site.

She was generous enough to include me in her line-up - and you can read our interview here.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

'Motherhood & Creativity' - upcoming events

Musician Clare Bowditch will launch Motherhood & Creativity: The Divided Heart at Readings bookstore.
When: Wednesday, May 6, 6.30pm
Where: Readings, 309 Lygon Street, Carlton
Check for full details here. 

Join me, actor and producer Claudia Karvan, and writer, ad guru and broadcaster Jane Caro about the honest delights and difficulties of being creative and being ‘Mum’.
When: Sunday, May 24 2015, 3.00-4.00pm
Where: Pier 2/3 The Loft, Pier 2/3, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Book here. 

Artist Lily Mae Marton, writer/illustrator Sally Rippin and poet/author Lisa Gorton will join me in a panel discusssion as part of the Williamstown Literary Festival.
When: Saturday June 13, 10.30-11.30am
Where: The Chamber, Williamstown Town Hall

I will be taking part in the 2015 Melbourne Writers Festival in August.
Details TBC.

PBS FM "All Our Stories" program - Monday April 13
Triple R Breakfasters - Friday April 1
ABC 774 "The Conversation Hour" with Jon Faine - March 25

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cate Blanchett in Vogue on art and motherhood

As you would imagine, I pretty desperately wanted Cate Blanchett to be in the first edition of The Divided Heart. She was an obvious choice.

I bugged her twice about it -- and her agent very politely declined on her behalf each time.

As I was nearing the deadline to get the manuscript to my publisher, my partner took the kids on a camping trip with a group of friends to give me the space and time to get it finished.

On the way back home they stopped at a small town for a drink and who should be the only other family in the cafe but Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton and their kids!

They got to talking. My partner told them he was looking forward to seeing what the pair did with the Sydney Theatre Company (they were about to start their joint directorship), and Blanchett found some sensitive way to inquire where "Mum was".

"Funnily enough," my partner told her, "she's at home trying to finish her book -- on art and motherhood. A book she really wanted you to be in, actually."

To which Blanchett said something along the lines of: "Oh, that old 'art and motherhood are incompatible' idea...".

"Well, no, clearly not just that," he said, "since you're managing to do both."

My partner is a very charming man, but sadly nothing he said helped change her mind. Obviously she's not a woman swayed by the power of coincidence!

A few weeks ago, the Good Weekend published a lovely piece by author Anna Funder about Jessica Anderson's novel Tirra Lirra by the River (one of my favourite books of all time!).

In commenting on the novel's main character, Funder said:
...wanting life and art both -- desires that in Brisbane in the early 20th century could not speak their name, and that are probably pretty difficult to reconcile without a lot of collateral damage, in any life. Indeed as I write this, in time bought from a babysitter, bargained from my husband and stolen from my children, the risk of collateral damage feels closer than I'd like. 

Even Anna Funder -- an assured writer, and a critical and commercial success -- still confronts the feeling that time for writing is bought, borrowed and stolen from her family, at some risk.

It is Funder that Cate Blanchett has chosen to speak to on the subject of art and motherhood in the latest issue of Vogue -- you'll have to buy the mag for the real thing, but here's's little write-up about it. No doubt Blanchett is (understandably) offering Vogue the definitive exclusive as some way of deflecting the onslaught of interest in her new baby girl.

And so I'm still a little bit sad that Blanchett didn't want to be in my book, but all power to the wonderful Anna Funder -- who'll no doubt conduct a fabulous interview, which I look forward to reading!

Oh - and there's an excerpt from my introduction of Creativity & Motherhood: The Divided Heart in ArtsHub today -- if you'd like to, you can read it here.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Holly Throsby on motherhood and music

It is really sad when you’re in a same-sex relationship, that you can’t create a baby with your partner. I really went through that feeling, we both did – just looking at your partner and wishing so much that we could combine our genes and make a baby together like heterosexual couples can. But of course we cannot do that, so it was very planned.

This was musician Holly Throsby's very generous and heartbreaking answer to perhaps the silliest question I asked of anyone while doing interviews for Motherhood & Creativity: "So getting pregnant was a very deliberate decision for you then?" Duh!

I felt genuinely shamefaced, less about my stupid question than by the fact that I had never really fully considered this inherent predicament for same-sex couples: the deep frustration and sadness that would come of not being able to make a baby with the person you love.

Her comments on sexism in the music industry were also fascinating:

Women always get asked about how they juggle work and family life, and men never do. I’ve even been asked that on Clare’s behalf – I did an interview a few years ago where the first question was, ‘How do you find touring with three children?’ And I was like: ‘That’s Clare Bowditch, not me!’

But I remember thinking that if I was Clare Bowditch, that would have been my first question. So it’s obviously true that that happens. I’ve been asked a lot about what it’s like to be a female musician in a male-dominated industry, and I’ve spent my entire career being compared not just to other female musicians, but to other Australian female musicians. It’s as though, when it comes to music, nobody can draw a comparison beyond this small pool that you live in. So many of us are so heavily influenced by men too – or not just by music, but books and films and so on as well – but journalists’ references can be so narrow.

I was so grateful for Holly's openness throughout our conversation. She is one super smart, super warm and super talented woman. You can read an excerpt from her book chapter in Junkee here.