Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Dangers of Handbags

This is just a piece of advice from a frivolous lady.

Do not go to London. Do not buy a cheap ticket ostensibly for your daughter's university Open Day. Do not relish the idea of a break from home. Do not take a near-empty suitcase.

Do not turn up on a strikingly sunny week where you can walk for hours, dawdling, wandering, discovering. Do not go down posh streets you've never savoured before. Do not gaze into shop windows.

Do not be tired out by teenage shopping and start hankering for some age-appropriate surrounds.

Do not spend a whole afternoon in a bookshop sofa reading half a book.


Do not be enthralled by the big city rush and will you stop checking out all the handsome and varied men that London throws your way?!

Do not drink all that excellent beer.

Do not fall in love with a handbag. You live in Italy, land of handbags and shoes. You have bills. You are a moneyless writer.

Do not go back and look at handbag. Touch her. Open her up.

Do not have marvellous lunch with best mate who like you is a devoted dream shopper.

Do not think how much said handbag could help you out of your post-winter slump and the last so-so months. Do not tell yourself you have a significant birthday ahead. Well, only eight months away.
Do not ask for your daughter's approval - duh, she already wants to borrow it.

Do not think, I deserve this! Who says you do?

Do not go back to posh shop.
Do not cross road with sweaty hands and weak knees.
Do not feel like an idiot (again) in front of Polish doorman.

Because there's no turning back.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Swimming Pools, Tall Grass and Cherry Blossoms

The time has come for change. No more boots. Short sleeves. Silver rings and bangles. Sunhats in the garden. For all of its political chaos Italy usually pulls out all the stops on good, wine-drinking weather. Saucy sauvignon in the garden. Seductive primitivo at night.

Every year I have a big big dream that doesn't seem to be coming true. A swimming pool. How I would love a pool here. Having grown up in the Sydney suburbs splashing in and out of our Clark aboveground pool I grew up with chlorine-filled ears and wet hair. Goosebumps at the end of summer. Summer skinny dipping sometimes.

Now, living in the Italian countryside means that while we are blessed with cherries to die for, a veggie patch, wisteria in scented bells at the front door, we are far from the big smoke and its attractions. So I always figured a pool would even out what might be missing. Long lazy laps and a drink under my palm trees. Good mates and some racy music. Entertainment without having to drive, queue, park. A wonderland for my kids.

For we have a big garden, currently full of cherry blossoms and long bright green grass - so long I can't find my erba cipollina anymore - and I could easily squeeze in a pool without even bothering the trees or my non-existent neighbours. And summertime here is stinky hot and loooong if you don't mind, up till September when I'll bring out my cardigans again.

Ahh dreamtime. This writer has starting plotting and it's not my new book.

What's your unreachable dream?

* * *

Last week's winner was Lyn with her very truthful comment. Do contact me Lyn so I can send you your birthday DLC copy!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Portrait of a Lady (1)

Pretty soon it's been a year since 'The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy' came out and I think I need a birthday party. A year ago I was a terrified debut novelist virgin. Absolutely clueless. My publisher is a small British press so much of the promotion was up to me. I organised a small bash in London, invited mates and family, sent over some local prosecco and brought a nephew who knows how to keep glasses filled. I had to talk about myself and about my novel, and I was in a total fluster. I forgot my own name when I was signing books.

And yet it was a killer night for me, a real milestone in coming away out of my cocoon.

Around that time I also did a blog tour and grew absolutely sick of talking about myself, trying to sound interesting and plugging the book. Some of you have shown support there, so thank you very much. Then there were some literary festivals where I had a microphone in front of me, a jug of water and lights. Not my thing at all, but I battled through. A couple of times I even made people laugh.

Sales have not been in the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' category, but okay for an independent book. I'd have liked more, but hey, I don't have a marketing team, or any more than twenty-four hours in a day. Selling is very hard work. And unfortunately, however much you love or like your book and are pleased with your publishers and reviews have been satisfying, the most nagging feeling is that you haven't done enough. You haven't done enough readings, you haven't networked enough, you haven't secured enough reviews. It can feel so depleting.

And then there's the after-book void. What do I do now? Do I keep rattling on about this book? Won't people get sick of me? Shouldn't I have a second book in the wings? Will my publisher let me change genre?

I've ended up spending this year - as I imagine many authors do - polishing book two (which was thankfully accepted before the first came out), blogging like mad, sending off review copies. Some days I feel like Catherine McNamara's secretary, hoping she doesn't catch me on Facebook if she pops in from the other room. Other days I'm steeped in a new story and looking at the long editing-submission-acceptance-editing-promotion road ahead. Some days I receive the thrilling news that a story has been accepted, more often it's a rejection which I immediately hand over to the secretary next door...

But today I feel like doing a birthday giveaway. To those of you who haven't read DLC, or those of you who have but don't want to surrender your signed copy, how about jotting down below:

1. What you LOVE about Italy
2. What you HATE about Italy

I'll have my Italo-Aussie-Ghanaian tribe help me judge the winner and I'll send you a copy plus some flirty bookmarks!

In other wild news I have my own personal photographer flying in tomorrow to produce a glam portrait for promotion for 'Pelt and Other Stories' due out in July. Mark Ritchie is a brilliant Australian photographer who has made Spain his home. What on earth do I wear/attempt to convey? While DLC is heavy on divorcée humour, 'Pelt' is where I trot out my literary wares - tales of lust and dirt on the cusp between Africa and Europe.. (Having said all that I'll add that I lived with a photographer for five years, that I HATE having a lens in my face, and that most shots have me with my eyes closed. This is not going to be easy.)

* * *

P.S. My story 'Taxidermy' was launched in Issue Two of 'A Tale of Three Cities' at Le Carmen Book Club in Paris on Sunday night! 'A Tale of Three Cities' is the first arts journal to salute the golden triangle cities of London, Paris and London. My piece is set in Berlin and will be included in 'Pelt'. Je suis très très heureuse!!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Washing dishes, making love and living in the moment

The other day a friend said I looked like a I had a cloud over my head. I said I did. It was full of thoughts I hadn't shaken off yet. She said you could tell in all my movements. I said, Well, it takes a while for me to free myself. From myself. I said I just needed to ease away, I'd be fine later on.

Then a friend of hers came up and my friend said, This is Cat, my Australian friend the writer. Today she has a cloud over her head.

I felt bashful about the writer thing, and stupid about the smudge over my head.

Oh, he said. A cloud over her head? That's really bad.

Then he said the magic words, the ones that are guaranteed to make the cloud break and rain fall on my face.

Do you meditate? he asked.

Well, no. But I know I should.

They tut-tutted. Oh dear.

I meditate all the time, he continued. You know you should try. When you do the dishes. You should be conscious of DOING THE DISHES, putting order in your life.

I thought about what I think about when I do the dishes. Oh shit I haven't fed the dogs yet. Oh shit I should be at the piano by now. Oh shit.

You should LIVE IN THE MOMENT, he said. You know it helps with everything. I've been doing it for years.

Then he swept away. Good-looking, tall, well-dressed, two lovely daughters. I thought about living in the moment, and asked myself when I ever do it. Well as it happens I think I do. At times. When I'm not rushing or driving or worrying or being called somewhere. I think I live in the moment when I am writing big time (though not before or after, then I'm a bitch), when I'm making love (oh yes lovely!) or when I'm playing the piano (Scarlatti is murder). Then I guess I am transfixed, held, connected. But the rest of time?

How about you? Do you meditate? Feel guilty that you don't? Tell other people that they should? Is your life more wholesome or holy as a result?

I tried it this week. Now I am driving. Catherine is driving her car. Catherine's speaker is busted so she can't listen to anything with a bass. Where are my favourite CDs anyway? I bet the guys have them in their car. I just HAVE to get this speaker fixed. It's insane.. I need some Jimi Hendrix in here.. Oh shit.. Dinner! Is there any food at home? And weren't you supposed to take that kitten to the vet.. Catherine!! BASTA!! Catherine is driving her car..Catherine is going from A to B.. This is Catherine's journey.. 


 **STOP PRESS** After a somewhat wild end-of-ski-season mountain party, I have to add another IN-THE-MOMENT experience, something that I lived through second by jarring second. It’s called The Hangover..