The Year of the Novel

An empty coffee cup beside a tablet and bluetooth keyboard

The coffee was so delicious, I drank it before I remembered to take a photo…

Hi everyone. It’s 2020 and I’m full of all the optimism a new year brings.  On every day of my summer holiday, I got up early and ran to the cafe to write.  It was kind of blissful. Here’s what I’ve decided: 2020 is The Year of the Novel. I’m going to limit the number of magazine jobs I take on and instead focus on writing my book. By December, hopefully earlier, I plan to have a full manuscript to badger my friends with. I realise, this is one of those things that’s much more exciting for me than it is for the rest of the world, but it’s still VERY EXCITING. I’ve also decided to dust off my poor, neglected blog and write posts once a month. Publishers like it if you have an active online presence. A platform. See? I know all the industry-speak.

Please ask me how I’m going with this throughout the year. I need your help to keep me accountable!

Deleted Snark

Sansa Stark giving Sansa snark

Hi everyone.

So I wrote a piece for Eureka Street in response to Leunig’s latest mummy-shaming cartoon. Have you read it yet?

I’ve had a few requests to share the comments I ended up deleting because they were too snarky. Here are the sweepings from the cutting room floor. I don’t take much convincing – they were my favourite bits!

Here we go:

1. “I was using the phone to get work done. Although, from what I know about you, being a working mum is another thing to be sneered at. I know you think I shouldn’t be working. But we don’t get to relax on a single income. As a generation, we have to hustle. I know you’re a Boomer and it was different for you, well done. Just so you know, #metoo isn’t a conversation about which one of your friends has bought another investment property.”

2. (this one just has an extra bit at the end) “It would be easier, perhaps, to put my baby into childcare for one day a week. Then I could get some rest, get my freelance work done. But I don’t dare to. I’m still haunted by those cartoons you did when I was a teenager. The baby in creche, all alone, staring at the ceiling, wondering why Mummy doesn’t love him (“Call her a cruel, ignorant, selfish bitch if you like, but I will defend her”). Do you remember? You did them in the 90s, back when you were still relevant.”

3. “I’m guessing you were that man in his seventies. I saw you in the cafe I passed, reading the paper with your avocado toast, before sauntering home to dash off your latest judgey cartoon.

That cartoon. My brain picks at it like a dried scab. I can’t help myself. I spent the best part of this week in the exclusive company of a small person whose conversational qualities are limited to say the least. My brain needs something to work on. I can hear your defenders inside my head: “Somebody’s sensitive! Guilty conscience?” But it’s not that. Well, it’s not just that.

Look, I have notes. Firstly, I liked how you rhymed ‘pram’ with ‘Instagram’. That’s the cartoon’s main strength. The poem’s meter is a little off. Plus, it would have been funnier if the baby were given a name, don’t you think? (“poor little Hunter” reads better than “beautiful bubby”). Also, next time, try making the cartoon two years ago, before the topic has become overworked and trite. I just think that if you’re going to insult me, you should do a better job of it. Be edgy, you know?”

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. I feel like I’ve just been to confession. As you can see, I have a wise editor who protects me from myself!

Mass With the Bare Essentials

Hi everyone! I’ve decided to republish some of my old Home Truths columns here. I’ve set up a Facebook page for “Kate Moriarty – Writer” and I’m trying to gather all my writing to the one place.

This column was first published in Australian Catholics Easter 2016

25-clarks-1

I long to see the day where I sail into 9am Mass with six children all clean and combed in their Sunday bests. I’ve always yearned for people to describe my children as ‘well turned out’. Especially church people.

Today was not that day. My husband had taken Matilda early so that she couldn’t be an altar server, and it was up to me to get the remaining children clothed and in the car and to Mass on time. Harry was dressed and ready like a champion. Unfortunately, his outfit was the same one he’d been wearing obstinately for the past three days. Christopher was performing a slow tai-chi dance with his breakfast, but was dressed at least. Annie was barefoot in her pyjamas staring blankly at her toast like it was the last clue in the cryptic crossword. The twins were fast asleep. And it was five-to-nine.

So I started gathering bags and babies, shepherding everyone into the car. The pyjamas Annie had been wearing looked enough like regular clothes to get away with. It was only later I noticed the vegemite stains all down the front.

Annie and Harry were putting their seatbelts on in the back of our van as Christopher and I organised the twins. “Annie, are you wearing shoes?” I call back whilst grappling with a four-month-old in a five-point-harness. “Yes, Mummy”, Annie responds in her sweetest voice.

And we were on our way, but we were oh-so-late.

We arrived. Annie grinned broadly, “Actually, I forgot my shoes!”, she announced triumphantly, like the punchline to some wonderful joke.

In all of the shouting and searching that followed, Annie alone was calm and unruffled. We found one shoe. There was only one. I think this was a million times worse than if there’d been no shoes at all.
The homily had just started as I sidled into Mass with my rag-tag posse of children. Annie remained unshod. If we kept a low profile, we might get away with it. In a quick exchange of sign language (I believe I employed the international sign for ‘I wish to strangle my child’), I brought my husband up to speed with the situation. His response was devastating, his expression deadpan:
“We’re on Offertory.”

In theory, being invited to bring the gifts to the altar is a wonderful privilege, I should have felt honoured that my husband was asked to participate with his family in this special way. Unfortunately, the idea of parading my dirty, barefoot, misbehaving children down the aisle for all to see was not altogether a tempting one.

When it came time for the Offertory Procession, I assumed a confident expression. Perhaps, if I smiled bravely and walked tall, nobody would notice my three-year-old was sans footwear. That aisle seemed much longer than usual. Father Jacob, flanked by Matilda and another server were miles away. After traipsing barefoot through the gauntlet of parishioners, Annie imperiously insisted on delivering her bowl to Matilda and not the priest. Father Jacob swallowed a snort of laughter.

I spent the remainder of Mass alternatively blushing and shushing. As we prepared for a swift exit, a lady grasped my elbow.
“It gave my heart so much joy to see your family bringing up the gifts,” she said with genuine warmth. My heart melted a bit. Mrs Thomas is almost old enough to be my grandmother. She has raised six children herself and was recently widowed. Mrs Thomas chose not to see the unwashed clothes or exposed feet or complete lack of liturgical style. She saw a family trying their best despite their imperfections, and loved us. In that moment, Mrs Thomas was God to me.

I opened my mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a loud yowling. Annie, it would seem, had stubbed her little toe on the kneeler.

And that, my dear, is why you should always wear shoes to church.

Job Fail

Stair with incorrectly installed bannister.  Text: you had one job.

So here’s the thing: I had an experience that was perfect blog post material. I was actually composing it in my head as it was happening to me.  I would have called it ‘Job Fail’, and we all would have had a nice laugh about it together.  But then I managed to pitch the idea to my editor and got it published.  There is something truly beautiful about getting paid for being daft.    But here’s the other thing: when I put stuff on my blog, I have a certain luxury of anonymity.  I can blather on about things to my own secret club and nobody really notices.  After my article was published in the magazine, however, I got an email from one of the chief characters in my fail story, who had recognised himself straight away, despite my attempts to conceal his identity.  He was so gracious and lovely, but I wanted to sink through the floor. How mortifying!

Anyway, please read it.  It’s called The Hassle of the Hustle (aka “Job Fail.”) and you can find it on page 26 (print page 24) of the April edition.  Can you see how I linked to it twice?  That’s how much I want you to read it.

Reflection on the Nativity

Traditional painting of Our Lady breastfeeding (or trying to)

Don’t you hate it when they get to that distractible age and won’t focus on breastfeeding? Stop looking at the angels, Baby Jesus!

 

Have a look at a piece I wrote for Pray.com.au on the Nativity. It got me reflecting on what it felt like to be a new mother. Did Mary feel this way too?

More Excitement!

So I haven’t got around to telling you yet (unless I know you in real life, in which case I’ve probably told you far too many times!), but I won an AWARD.  My editor at Australian Catholics entered one of my columns in the Australasian Religious Press Association awards and it won GOLD for ‘Best Humorous Article’.   I’m so super stoked!  Apparently, the other entrants weren’t particularly humorous, so I wasn’t so much the funniest as the only funny one, but I’m still going to see this as a win.  It was AUSTRALASIAN, not just Australian, and it was RELIGIOUS, not just Catholic.  I’m mega smug.

So I’m going to reprint the winning article here.  Enjoy!

Minimum Wage Barbie in McDonalds uniform

What a Girl Wants

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s anxious research.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I read. Information soothes me.

When my eldest daughter was born, I devoured every book I could get my hands on, from What to Expect When You Expect to be Expecting, to Embryo Einsteins, to Have a New Newborn by Friday.  Imagine my dismay when I discovered that simple toys could reinforce oppressive gender stereotypes and cripple the cognitive development of my wee girl-child.  So, from the very start, I endorsed train sets, puzzles and every variety of Danish plastic construction system. Now, at almost twelve, Matilda is assertive and articulate and wants to be a mechanical engineer when she grows up (when she’s not busy being the Prime Minister of Australia).  This, of course, is all due to my wise parenting methods. So I knew exactly which approach to take when my next daughter was born.

Annie, however, in all her four years of life, has politely declined Thomas and His Friends in favour of all things pink, sparkly and monarchical.  

“Mummy, I want to be a princess!”

“That’s a good idea, Annie.  Did you know that princesses are wise rulers and important decision makers?  Let’s pretend your kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and implement free and fair elections for all of your subjects!”

“Do I get to wear a shiny dress?”

“OK, sure…”

The real challenge came for me last Christmas.  Annie’s wish list had only one item on it. Her large brown eyes shone and she spoke in hushed tones of finally owning . . . a Barbie doll.

Oh, Lord.

I know the marketing executives would tell me that this tiny mannequin is actually an empowering role model, a true feminist.  Didn’t I know there is even a Doctor Barbie?  Girls can be doctors too!  I try to swallow this, but it sticks in my throat.  Barbie is, above all things, pretty. Literally, she is an object to be dressed and admired.  I want more than this for my daughter.

“What else do you want for Christmas, Annie?”

“Just Barbie.  If I tell Santa something else, he might not get me the Barbie.”

“What would you do if you got a Barbie?”

“Play Barbies.”

“OK.  But you know Barbie’s not all that great.  What does she do? Wear clothes? Sit around her dream house bemoaning the lack of space her vital organs have to function within that tiny tiny waist?  There are better toys than Barbie!”

“Oh, I know you don’t like Barbie, Mummy,”  Annie says composedly.

“You do?”

“Yes.  That’s why I’m asking Santa to get me one”

But for all that, Santa, in all his wisdom, did not get Annie a Barbie doll.  I imagine he couldn’t bring himself to turn into the lurid pink aisle at the toy section of Target and fork out thirty dollars for an 11-and-a-half-inch eating disorder just waiting to happen.  I’m sure he tried. I’m sure he went back again and looked and scratched his beard and called one of his best elves for advice. But it was not to be. On Christmas morning, Annie ran downstairs and opened her pillowcase to discover a Lego set for a pink princess castle, complete with flowers, princess and pony.  I held my breath. Annie looked up at me – and beamed.

“Look, Mummy!  Look what Santa got me!  It’s just what I wanted! It’s just what I asked him for!”

Wait, what?  Had she completely forgotten our conversation?  And how could she have asked Santa for this Lego set?  She’d never seen one before!

Shut up, Kate!  Just shut up! You’ve almost got away with it!  Smile! Nod!

“Oh, yes, Annie.  Gosh, Santa is very clever.  You know, I think he’s even smart enough to be a princess!”