Exit the nunnery

I’m fighting off a cold, sore throat, sore ear and all the rest, so my husband recommended I take some apple cider vinegar. A cure-all he reckons, rather like ti tree oil on cuts and rashes.

I’m in the countdown to my book launch and determined to stay well enough to get through.

It’s a surreal space in which to sit.

All these years of writing, revising and re-working. All these years of imagining that one day I will produce a book.

Like giving birth to a baby and just as it is after the birth of a baby, all being well and the baby being healthy, there is a sense of where to from here?

How will this book baby evolve?

I dreamed last night of my favourite nun back at the convent on a hot summer’s day. She was dressed in full regalia. I was fanning myself and complaining about the heat.

‘It must be ten times worse for you,’ I said to the nun. She looked down into the folds of her black habit and brushed a hand across her forehead, what forehead she could reach under her wimple, and wiped away the sweat.

Then someone came along and offered to interview her in an advertisement for makeup. She needed to take off her nun’s garb for the role and wound up in blouse and skirt seated in front of the cameras. She wore lipstick and was transformed until the Reverend Mother came along.

The nun in civvies had no time even to wipe off the makeup and the reverend mother walked towards her with an archbishop in tow. The two spoke sternly to the nun and after they had gone I asked how it went.

‘I have to leave,’ she said. ‘They don’t want me any more.’

‘That’s a good thing,’ I said, but she looked as though she needed convincing. She could stay with us, I told her but realised she would not enjoy staying at home with my father while he was drinking at night.

‘I’m staying with Charles,’ the nun said. Charles was the father of one of the girls from school who had separated from his wife. He had offered her a room ages ago, and I was surprised but woke to the alarm before I had a chance to discuss it further.

I have a strange sense that coming out with my book is like a coming out in other ways too.

Like leaving the convent, leaving the constrictors of religious life and finding new ways of being.

The art of disappearing

In 1997 when my youngest daughter was three years old, I joined a novel writing class at the Council of Adult Education (CAE) in the city.

The course constituted one unit from the CAE’s Professional Writing and Editing Certificate and was my only subject that year, given I worked full time and could not manage more.

I chose novel writing in pursuit of a particular teacher and writer Janey Runci.

Together, we met with some twenty students in an old white walled room up a dark set of stairs in Degraves Street above the CAE bookshop where they also sold paints, brushes and easels to budding artists.

I chose novel writing despite the fear I no more had a novel in me than could fly, but I wanted to write my story, which I started under the guise of fiction.

Whenever Janey Runci suggested an exercise, say one in which we might imagine our character in conversation with another, I went to my memories of growing up in my large and troubled family.

I did not let on this was my story no matter how obvious. I noticed there were others in the class who drew on their own lives for material, too, but always we talked about our stories as fiction.

It suited me to write from this distance.

My book, The Art of Disappearing, which is still at the printers but should very soon materialise, began in this white walled room, with its grey flat topped desks and plastic chairs, where our teacher Janey Runci inspired us to get words down.

It has taken me the years in between to raise four daughters, to work in my chosen profession as a psychotherapist, to complete a PhD in Life writing and the desire for revenge and to flesh out my memoir.

This book has taken me twenty years to write and after many different versions, revisions and struggles, I have chosen to limit my story to childhood into early adulthood.

I hope one day to write more about aspects off my adult life but for now my focus is on that most compelling of times in any person’s life, childhood.

I’ve put up invitations to right left and centre on Facebook, and the invitation is also included on the Readings website but here on my quiet blog I’d also like to announce the launch:

Thursday 9 November 2017

6.30 pm at Readings bookstore

Glenferrie Road


Gerald Murnane will launch my book.

He promises to speak for ten minutes and no more. I promise to do likewise.

We will not inundate people with lengthy words of wisdom but I hope it turns out to be a jolly time for all.

The book has taken twenty years in the making, and a lifetime in the living.