Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Divided Heart sets sail again

Thank you so much to everyone who made it along to the launch of Motherhood & Creativity: The Divided Heart at Readings in Melbourne last week.

Having been sick with the flu all week, I was a bit worried about getting through it. But the Sudafed and red wine kicked in nicely, just in time for me to speak - even if it meant I couldn't get to sleep till 3am that night!

For those who couldn't get there, you can listen to an audio recording of my speech here.

It's so satisfying to finally have a new version of The Divided Heart in print. Clare smashed a bottle across its hull (figuratively speaking) with her usual generosity and humour, and it has set sail again, hopefully into the hands of those who need it most.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Creative motherhood on Books & Arts Daily

I was part of a panel on Radio National's Books & Arts Daily to talk about motherhood and creativity today - you can listen online here.

Crafter/writer Pip Lincolne impressed me, as always, with her very Zen approach to the complexities of finding time to be creative as a mother of three. I also really enjoyed meeting Miriam Sved, one of the editors of Mothers and Others: why not all woman are mothers and not all mothers are the same, who brought so much intelligence to the discussion.

We were all a bit startruck when the next person in the studio was none other than the author of the parenting bible Baby Love, Robin Barker, who has turned her hand to writing fiction. So what do you think we all talked about afterwards? Babies? Nup. Football! Barker turned out not only to be an obsessed Sydney Swans fan, but a huge fan of Miriam's latest novel, Game Day.

Host Michael Cathcart suggested that it has become an accepted fact that the arts are feminised in Australia, and the cliche of 'the artist' is now "Mum writing or painting while she has the kids at home".

This line of questioning threw me a bit -- oh, if only there was a rehearsal for radio interviews and then you got to do it all again, but better! Fortunately, Miriam was there to give the best answer, responding that she thinks the fantasy of 'the artist' as a solitary male, cloistered away from the rabble of daily life, remains the persistent perception.

I was having coffee with an artist the other day who mentioned how much it shits her that whenever a male artist is photographed with his children in the studio, it will attract a stupid amount of admiration. (Admittedly, I think I've been guilty myself of sharing such an newspaper image on Facebook!) When of course the majority of women artists work in this context all the time, with no one congratulating them for allowing their children to occupy their 'sacred space'.

What do you think? Has the mother at home with her kids really become the predominant 'cliche' about the arts in Australia?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pip and me on Radio National tomorrow

Just a little heads-up that craft guru Pip Lincolne and I will once again be entering ABC headquarters to talk mothering and creativity, this time on Radio National's Books & Arts Daily at 10am tomorrow (that being Tuesday). I'm liking this teamwork!

Cathcart's wife, the playwright Hannie Rayson, not only launched the first edition of The Divided Heart, but actually played a fairly central role in the creation of my children! The story is much less strange and a little more romantic than that makes it sound -- and you never know, maybe it will be told on RN tomorrow morning. Or maybe not. In which case, I'll tell you here later...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chaos plus limitations: Claudia Karvan's unique take on motherhood

Claudia Karvan with son Albee
Last month, Debrief Daily ran an extract from Motherhood and Creativity - part of my conversation with actor and producer Claudia Karvan.

Claudia and I met on a street corner in suburban Sydney near her home. She rocked up with her dog and a sore back from lugging her mothers' furniture around all day. So instead of sitting in a cafe, we took ourselves across the road to the park and conducted much of the interview with Claudia flat on her back in the grass, throwing sticks to her dog.

She was a joy to interview: relaxed, open, candid and funny. I really appreciated her wisdom about the choices she has made, both in terms of her career and raising her children, including her step-daughter, singer Holiday Sidewinder.

On the decision to have her first baby, she gave me what I thought was a particularly original answer:

I just felt like I could do whatever I wanted to, and I was sick of that. I wanted someone else to be my boss. I had no parameters, really, and I wanted some. There’s a certain kind of indulgence that comes with being young that I wasn’t really enjoying. Does that make sense?

I wanted to invite chaos into my life – that’s another way of putting it. I wanted to have some other priorities that weren’t set and guided by me. I don’t know where that feeling came from. I think I was just sick of myself! I wanted to make life a little bit more layered.

You can read the rest of the extract here.

I'll be talking to Claudia and writer, ad guru and broadcaster Jane Caro about this and other mothering-related issues at the Sydney Writers Festival this Sunday, May 24 at 3pm. Join us if you can! Tickets here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Modern motherhood - what does it all mean?

I recently got a call from journalist Liz Walsh, asking if I was happy to talk to her for an Adelaide Advertiser feature to coincide with Mothers Day.

"No worries," I responded innocently. Before she proceeded to ask me one of the curliest questions I think I've ever had thrown at me: "So, what does it mean to be a mother in 2015?"

Oh my goodness! I've spent so much time thinking about mothering in relation to art and creativity specifically, I'm not used to talking about motherhood in the broadest sense, let alone what it means to be a mother now versus at other times in history. Especially off the cuff!

Liz also interviewed comedian/singer Em Rusciano and child psychologist Jodie Benveniste for the story - and it's fascinating how aligned we all were in our thinking. Basically, all arguing for the importance of love and intuition and ditching impossible expectations for ourselves as women mothering in very complex times.

I'm not sure if my responses were particularly coherent, but I think it's a great article - and you can read it here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The "new and startling" ways motherhood changes art

Del Kathryn Barton's portrait of Cate Blanchett
Last week, ArtsHub spoke to me, artist Lily Mae Martin and writer Alice Robinson about whether motherhood changes a woman's art.

The responses from Alice and Lily beautifully describe the profound impact having children can have on an artist, both practically and emotionally.

"I understand now, in new and startling ways, the vast scope for love – but also for despair and loneliness and impatience and boredom – that we can posses," Alice says.

"Though the fact of the children complicates my ability to write on a logistical level, I am grateful for the lessons these small, remarkable people have taught me about what it is to be human: striving, contradictory and flawed. If writing fiction is about investigating lives and minds and mistakes, as I believe it is, then I am doing more nuanced work now thanks to the precious trials and triumphs bestowed on me by motherhood." 

Lily has always been a courageous artist, but says motherhood has made her even braver.

"I had a pretty terrible birth experience, and I remember things weren’t going well. One of the first things I thought was, oh my gosh, I’ve wasted so much of my time. So I think I become more aware of my own limitations I guess and a bit braver because of that."

Read more of what they have to say here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Talking about the "M" word

As writer and blogger Kerry Clare says, she and I first connected through serendipity back in 2008 when I left a question on her blog about the ambiguous ending to Emily Perkin's Novel About my Wife.

At the time, Kerry was still prgenant with her first baby, but wrote a very generous and insightful review of The Divided Heart on her great literary blog, Pickle Me This. Then, a few years later, having had her own children, she went on to edit a sensational book of essays about contemporary motherhood called The M Word.

So, as Kerry says, "everything is a circle", and she has now interviewed me for her blog. She presented me with a very intelligent list of questions that really made me think! I hope I have done them justice - you can read my answers here.

With the book launch for Motherhood & Creativity being tonight (aargh!), this interview feels like good timing -- reminding me why motherhood is, as Kerry says, "so incredibly interesting, the ideas around it far-reaching and important." Hear, hear!

Love to see you at the launch if you can make it: Readings Carlton, 6.30pm.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Staking a claim to a room of one's own

At the time I did not ask Jem to give me my own studio in the design. I didn’t think that I deserved one. What was I doing that needed a creative space? Nothing. If I was to use a creative space for something, would it make any money, like Jem’s? No. Did I have time anyway? I had a challenging senior position, and a long commute, and small children, and typically unfulfilled promises to self of daily exercise. ...

I had spent so long resenting that Jem and the boys did not see more in me, and yet how could I expect them to see what I did not value in myself? Men do not feel the need to justify time and space for creativity, play and exploration, for their own projects; they feel entitled to it and just claim it. I had been waiting for validation, and it sickened me. 

Sound familiar?

I was almost deafened by the bells ringing in my head while reading these words from Anna Trembath - you can read her full piece, "Bernie's Shed", on Catherine Deveny's website here.

It was 1929 when Virginia Woolf famously envisaged a ‘golden age’ when women would finally have leisure, money and a 'room of her own' — the elements she saw as essential for creative work. And yet, what she perhaps could not have predicted was the ongoing struggle of women to stake a rightful claim to these things!

I'm tempted to take a photo of my study -- maybe I will one day -- and share it with you. On the right of the room is my partner's desk: sleek, black, pristine. On its shiny surface is one widescreen computer; two speakers; a microphone; some piece of machinery with pads that light up when you tap them; and a piano keyboard. Displayed on top of the speakers is a green statue of the Buddha, his leather tobacco pouch, an old B&W photo of his mum, and a candle. Yep, it's positively Zen in that corner of the room!

On the left... my desk: small, shabby, wooden... and covered in piles of god knows what. Currently, it's housing a broken lamp; all the opened and unopened household bills; the kids' school notes; a bag of clothes for the op-shop; photos I've been meaning to put in albums for probably the past ten years; stacks of unread books waiting to be reviewed; and a box of kids' junk I must have collected from around the house, dumped in a box, then dumped on my desk...

So what is going on here? Somehow my partner has worked out how to respect his own creative needs. He would never consider dumping the kids' junk, unwanted goods and household bills into his sacred space. As for me... sadly, my desk is pretty symbolic of my struggle to prioritise this aspect of my life (and myself).

I am constantly telling other women that they can't wait for the world to give them permission to be creative; that they must give this permission to themselves - and that it all starts with carving out space: physical, psychological and practical. I think this year will have to be the one in which I take a dose of my own medicine.