Mother’s Day…Really?

Heartwarming gifts, a long lie-in and an endless supply of picture perfect moments for your Facebook feed? With Mother’s Day almost upon us, it might be time for a reality check…

Mother’s Day. The one day of the year that’s all about you wonderful you. The sacrifices, the vomit, the endless hours spent driving to and from swimming lessons/soccer training/gymnastics, followed by even more hours waiting around for them to be done, the weekends spent standing on the sidelines of cold, soggy fields, not to mention that time you single-handedly constructed an icy pole fortress for school with nothing but your bare teeth. This is the moment it all comes back to you.

In theory, at least. In reality, if you’ve already got a few Mothers Days under your belt, you’re well aware of the dangers of setting your expectations too high. But even with the bar set so low it’s practically scraping the floor – everyone’s busy and however they choose to mark the day, you know they’ll do their absolute best – you’re still hopeful for a few things; a decent lie-in that will, with a bit of luck, be the first one you’ve had all year without any warm, little middle-of-the-night intruders creeping into your bed to steal the duvet and play Crossy Road (loudly) on your iPhone while you’re dreaming about Javier Bardem; someone else cooking breakfast; a lovingly homemade card or two.

And you’ve trained them well, leading by example being the best way to impart important life lessons and all. There’s the annual party you spend weeks organising for 45 of their closest and most beloved school friends. And their siblings. The limited edition Minecraft Lego set they had to be physically prised away from in Kmart back in January that you’ve been secretly paying off for their birthday ever since (this one is actually something of a moot point; generally by the time the big day comes around, they’ll gaily announce they hate Lego, and Minecraft’s for losers).

Things get off to a promising start. The Mother’s Day breakfast part, they’re all over. This you know from the peals of laughter and cacophony of crashing pots, followed, inevitably, by angry shouting coming from the kitchen some time before the sun comes up. You cringe, push aside every instinct to get up and take over, and bury your head under the pillow. It is your day, after all.

Just as Javier is about to make his reappearance, you get shaken awake and proudly presented with the world’s worst cup of tea. Cold, milky and you suspect they forgot the teabag. With crusty eyes and a smile of delight plastered to your face, you knock it back in one go (this is not your first time round the block, after all), while shooting secret dagger eyes at your husband. Really, with him supervising, is it really too much to ask that it’s at least warm? He would argue that it’s taken you too long to get up. And you would counter that at 5.45am in the morning, he’s lucky you didn’t shove the whole down his shorts.

Next up, Junior One thrusts two large gobs of butter with a bit of toast stuck to the bottom your way, along with a crumpled-up drawing of an overweight unicorn (‘It’s you Mummy! You can fly!’ Hmm, the way you see it, he’s got Buckley’s chance of ever making it airborne). Meanwhile, Junior Two takes position at the end of the bed, ready to recite the sixteen-verse poem he’s spent the last two weeks lovingly crafting at school. The sentiments are beautiful, your eyes fill with tears, but still, by the time he hits verse nine, you can’t help wishing you still had a bit of that cold tea left to wash the whole experience down.

Then it’s time for the gifts. They’re particularly excited about this bit, and so are you. Your kids are canny creatures, after all, and there’s no doubt in your mind they will have taken note of the hint – and the very detailed instructions – about where to find the spa voucher and the box of Haigh’s champagne truffles you cunningly hid at the back of the Mother’s Day stand when you were up at school last week (three and a half hours of wrapping cellophane around other mothers’ presents does have its advantages). Yet still, you are presented with the mug. Again. You will add it to your collection. You smile and kiss them and tell them you love your mug – who wouldn’t want to drink their coffee out of something inscribed ‘World’s Okayest Mum’? – while secretly wondering who scored the chocolates.

At this point someone will suggest going out for brunch. Fabulous idea. Only nobody’s thought to book, forgetting, of course, that this is the one day of the year you actually have to reserve a table, even at the dodgy little café up the road. You all head up there anyway, just on the off-chance, where by miracle you spot a free table down the back next to the toilets. However, despite the $64,000 you have spent on watery takeaway lattes at said establishment over the past five years and the fact that you always, without fail, remember to ask after the manager’s ageing mother with the double hip replacement, he will not bend on his ‘reservations only’ rule, leaving you forced to huddle outside in the cold, watching all the other mothers enjoy their buckwheat and smoked salmon pancakes through the window.

Some time later, you will head home and it will begin to rain. Windows and doors will be sealed shut, heaters will be cranked up to the max, and in that steamy, sauna-like setting two small people will launch a verbal attack that will last for hours; Are you having a great Mother’s Day?/ Is it better than last Mother’s Day/ The best Mother’s Day of your life?/ Rate it on a scale of one to ten/ What’s been your best so far/ What do you want to do for next Mother’s Day/ Should we start planning Father’s Day? Thankfully, after a while it will all just become white noise and you can get back to the very important business of unfriending your friend who got the chocolates AND the spa voucher, and is now splashing the fact all over social media. #soblessed indeed.

So to all of you out there who might be spending this Sunday not lounging around in bed till midday with a lovely massage or shopping spree to look forward to, but standing in half a metre of mud next to a soggy sports field with a cold sausage sandwich in your hand, carpooling a gaggle of toddlers across town to yet another birthday party, while they sing along to the extended version of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, or up to the elbows in pipe cleaners and glue ‘helping’ your child with his homework assignment, all the while secretly counting down the minutes till school starts on Monday, I wish you the very happiest of Mother’s Days. Love is in the thought, not the execution. And they’re yours, after all – what better Mother’s Day gift is there than that?

We’re In The Sunday Paper!

Delighted to be featured in this week’s Sunday Telegraph with a story on motherhood. Do check it out!

http://m.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/motherhoods-great-but-i-miss-my-identity/story-fni0cx2y-1227317246290

It’s Here and It’s Real!!! And The Surprises Don’t End There…

Clever girls, they are

To be honest, I’d been feeling pretty nervous about the whole ‘book hitting the real world’ business. A couple of weeks ago some friends up at school asked whether I’d be having a launch party to celebrate and my answer was a very firm No Way. The embarrassment! The public spectacle! Who would even come?!

So yesterday was the big day and Confessions finally landed in bookshops. But with winter uniforms needing to be washed and storm damage to be tended to, other things took over, in the way they just do. Flopping onto the sofa that evening, it all felt a bit anticlimactic. Spotting my bleugh state of mind, Lewis suggested we drop the kids over at my sister’s and pop out for a celebratory drink. Nice plan.

And so we did. Only it wasn’t the nice quiet glass of champs I was expecting. As I rounded the corner of the little bar up the road, champagne corks flew and I came face to face with all the beautiful mums and dads from school, all here to help me celebrate the launch of Confessions.

The very first surprise party I’ve been to – and it was for me!

If ever I needed another reason to love these gorgeous women, well here it was. Samantha and Bron – thank you for being such incredible friends and knowing that deep down, of COURSE I wanted to celebrate hard! And thank you too to all the lovely mums and dads (and my own mum and dad) for braving the wet and the cold to be with me. Feeling #soblessed

xxG

Woohoo! And We’re Off To The Printers!!!

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What a birthday present!

Last Friday, the day of my 42nd birthday, my little baby was officially signed off and sent to the printers. Writing and publishing Confessions Of A Once Fashionable Mum has been such an amazing experience, and one of the best parts has been the people I’ve met along the way – my agent, Sally Bird; publisher at Nero Books, Jeanne Ryckmans; and my uber-talented (and did I mention ridiculously patient?) editor, Kirstie Innes-Will. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so very much!

I’m off to Nero Books today to meet with Jeanne to discuss publicity for the book. Too exciting! This is all something that I’ve imagined and dreamed about for so long, but never for one second actually believed would come true. Still pinching myself!

Escape to the land of No Wi-Fi

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Have just landed back on terra firma after three days on a farm in the Blue Mountains, a place so remote they haven’t yet cottoned on to the idea of Wi-Fi.

I shouldn’t really complain. Being someone who rarely steps foot off the school-office-home-supermarket circuit unless I really really have to during term time, the farm really is a little bit of paradise.

We discovered it four years ago and try to go every September school holidays. If we’re lucky and everyone’s timetables coincide, we might even manage to drag a few extended family members along for the ride too. The kids are still at an age where stomping through the mud in their rainboots and stuffing every animal in sight full of carrots and apples is akin to ten Christmases at once, so we try to enjoy it while we can.

And every year there’s something new to discover. This time it was two baby rabbits and a tiny spotted piglet with an extraordinarily waggy tail. The kids were in ecstasy and I’m sure the three little newcomers are still lying fat-bellied in their pens recovering from all the love and attention they received over the past 72 hours.

We’d booked our stay about three months ago, so I knew the trip was coming up. But still, as we inched closer and closer I could feel my blood pressure rising. Three days away from my desk! And no wi-fi to boot!

I’m still at that stage (and expect to be for a long while yet) where writing my book has to fit around looking after the kids and my bread-and-butter work of magazine writing, which essentially means weekends and weeknights after the kids have gone to bed (I’m full of admiration for those people who can get up at 4.30am and cram in a couple of hours before their little people wake up, but have long since accepted that that is not and never will be me). If I’m top of my editorial deadlines, I might grab a few extra daylight hours during the week, but that’s pretty rare.

The upshot is, like most working parents, every minute of every day is accounted for and there is absolutely. no. wiggle. room. At least that’s the way it feels. I’m sure I could probably claw back 20 minutes or so to myself by cutting out my detour to the coffee shop for a takeaway cappuccino after school drop-off or cutting out my Kardashians binge-fest at the end of the week, but, you know, life and living and all.

So the farm escape had me sweating. While the kids packed their little overnight bags and made drawings for all the animals (which I’m sure they just loooved) I found myself in the grip of the full-scale night terrors that I’d come back to a fledgling writing career that was no more.

But strangely, I feel refreshed. It’s like someone has hit the reset button. Even though we’re now smack bang in the middle of the school holidays – otherwise known as Nightmare from Hell for anyone working from home – I have a feeling I’ll be more productive over the next couple of weeks than I have for a while.

Well, that’s the hope at least. The reality will probably be me shouting and cursing at the kids to get off the computer or flinging their beloved Frozen DVD out the window after umpteen re-runs.

How do you juggle kids and work and writing? Any clever time-saving tips you’re willing to share?

(NB Admission re pix…these were actually taken 3 years ago cos I still haven’t gotten around to downloading this week’s farm pix from my phone. Plus Miss M looks so damn cute atop that horse…ah, the memories…)

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Jumping Into Slushpile Hell

The thing about writing a book is that it takes sooooo long. And if it’s your first one, you’re not even sure whether it’s worth the effort.

In an ideal world, you write and edit your entire manuscript before sending it out to prospective publishers. Not only will you be showing them your best work, but you won’t find yourself in that sticky situation of having to finish off a sold manuscript under the pressure cooker conditions of a tight deadline and what feels like a hundred pairs of eyes on you. You control the scheduling and what happens in your story, and everyone knows exactly what they’re dealing with.

And that was absolutely 100% the plan I went in with.

But after six weeks glued to my desk with the door shut to the outside world it began to feel kind of lonely. Was anybody even out there? Maybe I should try another tack. Dip my toe into the water just, you know, to see if anyone bites. After all, no point spending months writing something that nobody wants, right?

Heart pounding with excitement, I tidied up my first three chapters, and emailed them out to the open submissions programmes of the Big Six publishers, otherwise known as Slush Pile Hell, as quickly as I could before I changed my mind.

And then I waited.

They’re very clear about this waiting part. It can take months, don’t call us, we’ll call you type of thing. After about a week I decided to give them a tinkle just, you know, to check they’d received it and all.

Hello meet Mr Rejection. The first four came in quick fire succession – Boom boom boom boom. Just like that. I lay prostrate on the floor next to my computer wondering how anyone in their right mind has the heart for this shit.

Then I got my first little bite. Tell us more about yourself. Who have you written for? Why did the story appeal to you? I leapt off the floor and reeled off a lengthy essay about my life, past loves, what I had for breakfast, and why my little contribution to the mum lit genre would break records, change the world etc etc.

Silence.

A couple of days later, Thanks but no thanks. Decided I preferred the Boom Boom scenario better than this.

And then life took over. Kids to ferry around, food to cook, budgie cage to clean out, that type of thing. Maths has never been my forte, and at this point I actually forgot that I’d sent the thing out to six and only heard back from five. Which left one tiny little glimmer of hope.

I was busy finishing up a magazine feature on the latest trends in front gate design when my email pinged. Another bite. We liked it. Send us more.

The front gate feature and everything else in my life got shoved aside and I then spent the next month or so writing another three chapters. Sent it off. Yep, they liked that too. Keep going.

So I did.

Six weeks later I emerged from the my little office like a smelly, straggle-haired creature of the sea clutching my 40k words. Half a book! Felt like I deserved an award/ a parade/ at least something for my gargantuan efforts. Sent the bugger off. And then, a whole lot more silence. Began to realise that things move veeery slowly in the world of publishing.

During that big silence I did a number of things that included, in no particular order, 1) dreaming of the various ways I’d announce my publishing news to the world/ family/ friends. Man they’d be so proud. 2) planning what I’d wear/ how I’d lose 20 kgs for my film premiere, and 3) researching beachside properties with own jetty within 30kms of the Sydney CBD. There were a surprising number of bargains out there if you had a spare $3 million in your pocket, which of course, I soon would.

And then they said No.

Cue a whole lot of darkness. Well at least I wouldn’t have to worry about losing those 20kgs.

At one point my eldest came up and put his arms around me. “Don’t worry, Mum. Just cos the publishing world doesn’t want you, we still do.”

Sigh.

Next up….Second chances…and a lovely, entirely unexpected surprise

My Path to Publication – Baby Steps

When I sat down to write my first novel, I spent an embarrassing amount of time scouring the web for articles like this. Because let’s be honest – nobody wakes up in the morning deciding to write a book if they haven’t got the tiniest skerrick of hope that it might one day, with a little bit of luck and a whole lot of ducks sitting obediently in a row, get published.

And to the wannabe author there is nothing NOTHING better than reading about some random nobody who sat down to crank out a book in between breastfeeds and the school run and came up with a best-seller that earned them a million dollars and is about to be made into a film with Ryan Gosling (spoiler alert: that isn’t me).

While my story might not run to those glorious heights, in its own little way it’s still the tale of a dream coming true. My dream. And sometimes I have to pinch myself to actually believe it.

So, if you’re sitting in front of the computer right now feeling that weird combination of excitement, fear and (if you’re anything like me) a little bit of embarrassment that comes with writing your first book, this one’s for you.

First up, my journey is not yet complete.

While I’m lucky enough to be signed with a wonderful publisher and an equally fabulous agent, my book has not yet hit the shops and I haven’t yet had to go out and stock up on snazzy new marker pens for my first signing.

My manuscript is currently sitting on a desk somewhere in Melbourne being pored over with a red felt-tipped pen by an uber-talented editor who will (fingers crossed) show me how to turn it into something worth forking out real actual money for.

So where did it all start? Like just about everyone else I’ve ever met, I was pretty sure I had a book inside of me somewhere. A little tiny one, at least. I spent years thinking about the stories I wanted to tell, but never quite found the courage to put pen to paper.

But then something clicked. The big 4-0, to be exact. And while I had two beautiful children and a great partner and was lucky enough to be living in one of the sunniest and most beautiful cities in the world, I suddenly started to feel the pressure of time pushing up against me. Gulp. It was now or never.

Next up…testing the waters with open submissions to publishers