Tag Archives: writing

Adventures at the Book Shop Signing

Or “Deodorant Fail.”

So I’ve discovered that it is possible to stalk your favourite writers on social media. I never knew it could be so easy! Recently, Monica McInerney posted on Facebook that she would be doing a book signing near me. I’ve never been to a book signing before. Did you know that you can just turn up to these things? You don’t need to be a special sort of person or anything. You can just go. It’s allowed.

Of course, it would take a bit of family logistics. We would need to rush back from swimming lessons, I would need to sweet-talk Christopher to march straight back from school so he could babysit his siblings for me. I would need to clamber into my lucky alpaca-print dress and scribble on some last-minute make-up (at least I didn’t need lipstick). I would need to do battle with all things Chadstone. But then I would be there, standing in line clutching my copies of the pretty new book and listening to the people ahead of me tell their story. I didn’t want the queue to move too fast. Once my copy was signed, I wouldn’t have a reason to be there any more.

The lady ahead of me tells me she likes my earrings. As well as the new book, she’s holding a battered old copy of The Alphabet Sisters and a photo of her three daughters who have the initials A, B and C. One of the books on the shelf out the front is from Affirm Press, my wonderful shiny new publisher. Would I see my own book here next year?

The lady in front of me asks if I would take a photo of her when she meets Monica. I agree readily, then bite my lip.

“YOU MIGHT LIKE TO READ MY BOOK NEXT YEAR. IT’S BY KATE SOLLY BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE A TITLE YET.” I blurt out. The lady looks startled, but then it’s her turn with Monica McInerney. 

There is something wonderful about the way Ms McInerney connects with each person in the line. For the time she is signing their book, it’s as if they are the only people in the room. Everybody has come with a story and Monica McInerney wants to hear every detail. I am enchanted. The people behind me seem to shift impatiently.

It’s my turn and the lady in front of me takes a photo. As she hands me back my phone she tells MM that I’ve written a book. I gulp and nod and breathlessly fill in the details, vaguely gesturing towards Christian White’s bestseller as I do. 

 I give the names of my three youngest children for the first book and MM carefully copies their names down. “And how are ‘Annie, Pippi, and Penny’ related to you?” MM asks. 

My eyes bulge. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW. “Oh! Um! They are my sisters. Wait! No! They are my daughters! Daughters!”

At this stage I am more perspiration than person. Then MM asks me what my book is about. 

Here’s the thing. Even when someone ordinary asks me this question, I freeze. The elevator pitch! Quick! Roll out the elevator pitch! Ack! Why can’t you get this right? How can you condense 80,000 words and five years of your life into two sentences when a minute ago you couldn’t even remember you had kids?

I gaze back imploringly, give a little whimper then finally garble out something about “crochet!” and “refugees!” and “yarnbombing!” How does anyone talk when their mouth is so chock-full of tongue and teeth? It’s a physical impossibility.

MM gave me the warmest of smiles. “I can see why Affirm snapped it up,” she says, giving me a sound bite memory I will use to light myself up from the inside for years to come.

And THEN! Then she insisted I let her know when my book is coming out so she could put a ‘Happy Publication Day” post on her formidable socials. I’m not sure how I remained standing at this point.

When it was time to go, I wanted to tell her how much her books have meant to me. How before I read Those Faraday Girls I didn’t know that there were books out there that were chatty and humorous and had endearing characters and absorbing plots. How I had since read all of her books, even the novellas and short stories. How they brought me joy and comfort at a time when I had babies that wouldn’t go to sleep and a house that wouldn’t get built. How much I hope to emulate her.

Instead, I carefully manoeuvred my mouth around my oversized tongue and teeth and said “Thank you for writing!” Then I stumbled away in glee and triumph.

When I shared the photo on my family message thread, my sister (Cindy Brady) responded with this edit, highlighting the manic gleam in my eye. What are siblings for?

PS. It struck me that I should promote Monica McInerney’s new book to MY one hundred followers, so then it’s like the same as her promoting me to her 11,000 followers. Favour repaid in full. Monica’s latest book is The Godmothers. She has also written her first junior fiction novel Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat. They are both lovely (Well The Godmothers is – I haven’t read Marcie yet but it looks delicious). Having said that, if you haven’t read anything of Monica’s (we’re on first-name terms now, you see, she’s my BFF) I would also recommend Those Faraday Girls  and The Alphabet Sisters. Family Baggage is pure delight as well, even though I’m not sure how that family travel agency would work as a business model in real life.

Success!

It’s a lot. I still don’t feel ready to write about it. 

But here’s the thing: I showed my manuscript to a publisher and they’ve offered me a book deal!

It’s going to be a book! It’s going to be in shops!

Nup. Still can’t get my head around it.

I was in the middle of a wedding rehearsal when I found out. It seemed wrong to shriek the news out across the church when I probably shouldn’t have been looking at my phone in the first place. When I got home, Christopher (who is now 14) had made a delicious lasagne, but had only just put it in the oven. He is an excellent cook, but sometimes struggles with the project-management side of things (it was 7:45pm). The younger children were hyper-hangry and fighting. I had a brief moment of joyful glee with my husband, before he had to sign in to two Zoom meetings at once (I don’t know how that works either).

It was only after I warmed up plates of lasagne for the kids, only after I got them ready for bed, only after I drove to McDonalds to pick up Matilda from her job, only after I gave her a driving lesson home, only after I got my own slice of lasagne from the oven and put it on a plate that I was able to grapple with the idea. 

“Dammit.” I said, and dug around in the fridge drawer for a bottle of Prosecco that was on special at Liquorland the week before. I popped the cork and grimly poured myself a glass. Then I looked at the glass. It’s been almost five years. It’s been longer if you count the time writing for my blog. All of the snatched sessions writing in cafes and libraries and in the car (like I am right now). I try to summon up some kind of response. I’m going to be published.

Nup.

Then my husband came out of his meetings and we watched an episode of Ted Lasso together.

The next day, I had a couple of people over and was berating myself as I company-cleaned for the first time in many months. I am not kind to myself in these situations. My internal monologue goes like this: “How did you let things get this bad?” “What is wrong with you?” “Look at that mess!” “You are a FAILURE!” But I stopped for a moment as I tipped out filthy mop water. I may be a domestic failure, but I DID just sell my novel!

Since then, I’ve managed to feel joy through other people’s reaction to the news. The idea of being published is like a small smiling thought, warming me from the inside. And now I’m telling you, and it feels like the biggest thing. Because you’re my reader community, my biggest supporters from the start. It’s too big. I don’t have words. I didn’t plan it, but it turns out today is my blog’s nine year anniversary! Thank you for everything. I would never have done it without your support.

I can’t WAIT to show you the novel!

Pod Person

 

Meme: "You should put that in a podcast/so I can unsubscribe"

 

I’m on a podcast!


The Majellan is one of the magazines I write for. I can’t share the articles here because it’s only print and app-based (but do feel free to subscribe and tell them I sent you!)

I wonder if you can hear the gentle struggle as I try unsuccessfully to steer the conversation towards “Kate Moriarty: Serious Writer” when it instead barrels along the path of “Kate Moriarty: Professional Mother”.

I shouldn’t nitpick. We did spend an entire half-hour on the glorious topic of ME, after all!

You may notice, I’ve updated the aliases I’ve given my kids (is this even allowed?) I never really liked “Daisy and Poppy”. Now that I know my twins better, I call my little girl who loves Batman and has her hair cut with a fringe “Penny” (after Penny Pollard) and my girl who is full of energy and a miniature megalomaniac “Pippi” (after Pippi Longstocking). I sputter this out in a garbled mess at the beginning. I was a little nervous.

Have a listen:

https://majellan.media/figuring-out-families/

Bloop

Two children’s backpacks, each with a corresponding lunchbox and drink bottle

 

Time for my March blog post! What should we talk about? This month, I worked on the romantic subplot in my novel. It wasn’t easy, but I finally convinced my lovers to kiss each other. Then I went back in time and made them fight. I don’t think romance is my strong suit.

I’ve started writing for The Majellan magazine. My latest article has been published, but the only way you can read it is by buying the magazine (boo!).

The twins are going to kinder this year. You’d think I’d have got the hang of it by now, but kinder mornings are a mess! It takes so much brainpower to get two often uncooperative young ladies fed, cleaned, dressed, shod, and out the door, with an appropriately stocked lunchbox and hair neatly tied back and a water bottle each and the show-and-tell bag and that form we were supposed to fill out and return last Friday. And a sun hat and a rain jacket, because Melbourne. I’m that mum who sidles in fifteen minutes late after the doors are locked.

No. Scratch that. I was That Mum last week, but this week will be different. This week I’ll be on top of mornings. Well, not counting Monday. That was a practice day.

My sister is doing a course in life coaching and I’ve volunteered as a coachable guinea pig. This means I talk regularly with one of the student life coaches (not my sister, but her lovely classmate) and work on strategies to make my life easier. This week, I’m going after mornings. Here are my plans:

1. Prepare everything the night before. Clothes, shoes, lunches, bags, drink bottles. Yes, know I always say I’m going to do this, but this time I mean it!

2. No checking Facebook before morning-tea time, after the kinder run.

3. Tell myself that kinder starts at 8:50am, not 9:00am.

4. Remember my iron and zinc tablets. This has nothing at all to do with the kinder run, but I figure I might as well do this if I’m remembering things.

Maybe if I get really good at this life coaching, I’ll become Super Capable. This could be the end of my endless blog post material! Or perhaps I could start a new, Aspirational Lifestyle Blog. Be like me! From Blooper to Gooper! I could design my own skincare range and everything.

Watch this space.



Post Script: So I took that wonderfully stylised picture at 9:05 this morning (don’t judge). We got to kinder late, and after I stood in the rain giving the twins hasty up-dos with hair-ties scavenged from the floor of the car, I realised in dismay that we had only one of the required two backpacks. The Star Wars backpack was neatly packed, with lunchbox, drink bottle, and a change of clothes. The only problem was, it was still inside my house. By the time we’d settled the twins, smiled apologetically at the kinder teacher, driven home, grabbed the errant bag, delivered it to kinder, and driven back home, it was 9:45am. I promise I’m not making this up.

I might have to wait until next week to be Super Capable. In the meantime, I need to take my iron tablet. I forgot yesterday.

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!

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.

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!”

 

Pitch Fail

Monkey (well, technically a chimp) on a typewriter

You’ll never guess what just happened.

So I’ve been trying to drum up a bit more business writing freelance.  I feel like I could probably take on one more monthly gig while still managing to keep track of which of my children is which (the non-identical ones, at least).  And then the Archdiocese of Melbourne went and got itself a new Archbishop, which meant a special edition for the magazine I write for, which meant they wouldn’t be needing ME to write for them this month, which left me feeling a little bereft and unwanted and resentful of the Archbishop elect (how DARE he?), especially when an extra bill came in for exactly the amount I would have been paid if it had been business as usual.

So, I had some time to sell myself to editors.  But I didn’t really know how to go about it.  I hunted around on websites, but couldn’t find any email addresses.  Then I made myself a profile on LinkedIn, but it seemed all the editors had private accounts.  When I told people about my hunt, they invariably would tell me about a newsletter of magazine they knew about that was “always looking for writers”, but which only offered the joy of seeing your name in print as payment.  Thank you: no thank you.

Lovely M had some contacts, so I armed her with some material to chase them up with.  But I haven’t heard back, and I didn’t want to bug her.  Plus I didn’t want to face up to the idea that my writing was NO GOOD and not worth a second look.   I’m going to my high-school reunion in a month and all of the publications I write for have the word ‘Catholic’ in the title somewhere.  This needs to change.  So I pressed on.

Then, as I was digging about on LinkedIn (“you have almost reached your browsing limit”), I found the details of the editor of the Woman’s Weekly!  Perfect!

So I spent a whole day crafting a breezy-chatty-yet-professional introductory letter and chose three of my best pieces to share.  I wrote about how I’d grown up reading the Weekly and how it’s still close to my heart.  I showed it to my family and asked their advice.  I pitched ideas for future articles that I said I was already working on.  I fantasised about being Pat McDermott’s understudy (she writes “Patter” – perhaps I could write “Scatter”?).  And then I waited.

Here was my plan:  I figured the editor would most likely begin her day by going through her emails.  She would start early – Maybe 8? Maybe 8:30? – because she might have a meeting at 9.  So if I sent my masterpiece at, say, 8:45am, it would come floating in to the top of the pile right when she’s in email-reading mode.  I was all set.  The PDFs were attached and all of the publications I mentioned were also hyperlinks to articles I had written for said publications.  Any minute now and I would press send.

But that’s not really a true picture of events.  It wasn’t like I was sitting there with my finger hovering over the send button, watching the clock.  I had set the laptop open with everything cued up on the kitchen table, that is true.  And I got in perhaps thirty seconds worth of finger-hovering.  But then Annie needed help making porridge and Poppy wanted milk poured and Christopher needed me to shout at him to stop teasing Harry, and Daisy wanted me to find the Thomas the Tank Engine spoon.  And then the doorbell rang and it was my mum and I hadn’t seen her in WEEKS and she’d brought food over and we needed to talk lots as we reorganised the fridge to fit it.

Mum looked across to the kitchen table.  “Uh-oh.  Daisy’s on your laptop.”

“Oh, isn’t that cute!”  I said.  It was cute.  Daisy was working away with the same intensity she must have seen her mother display countless times before.  Then I froze.  “Get off Mummy’s laptop, Daisy!”  I exclaimed, and rushed to the table.  My email page was open, as it had been before.  Now, however, a line of bold text ran across the top of the screen “Your email has been sent”.  Wait: what?

But surely this wasn’t such a bad thing.  I was going to send the email anyway – maybe Daisy had done me a favour dispatching it in such a timely manner?  It was like she was my adorable little personal assistant.  I frantically scanned the sent message.  It was such a bad thing.

There, in the middle of one the opening sentences, Daisy had added her own input: a string of random letters and punctuation marks.  In a mad panic, I dashed off the following message:

“Oh my goodness!

With regards to my previous email, my two-year-old jumped on my laptop as I was answering the door.  She made her own amendments and sent the email off before I was ready!  With the exception of “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, the email is what I meant to send. Please excuse young Daisy’s input and be assured that I am usually a scrupulous proofreader and never short of anecdotal material!

If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go crawl into a nice dark hole now…

Regards,

Kate”

Except I used Daisy’s actual name, not her blog pseudonym, because I figured I should be honest and it’s a nice name, which shows good judgement on my part.

So that was yesterday.  The time in between has been spent clicking the ‘refresh’ button on my email and jumping at loud noises.  But she hasn’t written back.  She hasn’t written back AT ALL.  I’ve taken to wringing my hands together and muttering at strangers.

I blame the new Archbishop.

 

PS.  I just went back to look at the email I sent and discovered, on top of everything else, I wrote the name of the magazine wrong.  I wrote “Women’s Weekly” – not “Woman’s Weekly”.  And I did it MORE THAN ONCE.  What is WRONG with me??  No wonder she hasn’t written back!  She probably didn’t even read as far as “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, she probably threw her computer aside in disgust when she saw I didn’t even bother getting the name of her publication right.

I need to go mutter at some strangers (“Comensoli…ComenSOLI!”)

Ripping off CS Lewis

Illustration of Demon

 

Have a look at my latest article. If you turn to page thirty of the May edition, you can see my modern take on The Screwtape Letters.  Then, flip to page 42 to see an excellent article written by my very talented sister.  While you’re there, have a look at page 24 of the April edition, you can see my article on the Welcome to Eltham movement, which my twins tried so earnestly to sabotage.

I’m really happy with the Screwtape article, though, so read that one first!