Ep 325 We chat to Clare Bowditch about her memoir ‘Your Own Kind of Girl’.

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In Episode 325 of So You Want To Be A Writer: We chat to Clare Bowditch about her memoir Your Own Kind of Girl. Discover how to write a page-turning story for kids and 9 manuscript awards you can enter now. Congratulations to Lesley Gibbes and Astrid Scholte being shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards 2020. Plus, we have 3 copies of Ribbit Rabbit Robot by AWC alumna Victoria Mackinlay to give away.

Click play below to listen to the podcast. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher Radio. Or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.

Show Notes

Lesley Gibbes and Astrid Scholte shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards 2020

Writing For Kids: 5 top tips for creating a page-turning story

9 Manuscript Awards to enter in 2020

Your Kid's Next Read giveaway

Writer in Residence

Clare Bowditch

Clare Bowditch is a storyteller who lives in Melbourne with her husband Marty, their three teenage children, a white groodle, and one lone surviving free-ranging guinea pig.

In terms of ‘the fancy stuff', Bowditch is a bestselling ARIA Award-winning musician (Best Female Artist), Rolling Stone Woman of the Year (Contribution to Culture), Logie-nominated actor (for her role as ‘Rosanna' on hit TV show Offspring), and a former ABC broadcaster who still misses her talk-back callers very much, and hopes they're doing okay out there.

As a musician, Clare has performed and toured with the likes of Leonard Cohen, Paul Kelly, Cat Power, John Butler, Snow Patrol and Gotye. The person she enjoys touring with the most is her drummer and husband, Marty Brown.

Her memoir Your Own Kind of Girl was published by Allen and Unwin in 2020.

Follow Clare Bowditch on Twitter

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(If you click the link above and then purchase from Booktopia, we get a small commission. This amount is donated to Doggie Rescue to support their valuable work with unwanted and abandoned dogs.)

Competition

WIN: Ribbit Rabbit Robot by AWC alumna Victoria Mackinlay

This podcast is brought to you by the Australian Writers' Centre

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Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo

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Interview Transcript

Allison

Clare Bowditch is an ARIA award winning musician, Logie nominated actor and one of Australia's favourite speakers. Her debut memoir, Your Own Kind of Girl, is out now through Allen and Unwin. Welcome to the program, Clare.

Clare

What a treat to be with you. I listened to your podcast as I was trying to become a writer. So this is a wonderful full circle moment for me.

Allison

Well, that's very exciting to think of you listening to our podcast. Now I'm going to have to go back over what I've said now and see if it's all up to scratch.

Clare

It was great.

Allison

I mean, look at you with your Aria award and your Logie nomination. It all looks very impressive.

Clare

It's pretty fabulous, isn't it? Look, the Logie nomination has been a running joke because it did actually happen.

Allison

You're not lying in your bio.

Clare

I'm not sure I was worthy of that Logie. Anyway, we didn't win that one. Some other bastard won it. So we've just stuck with the Aria, and it's good fun. It's pointy. It's a good doorstop. And just reminds us on weeks like this when we're not working that we will work again.

Allison

Fantastic. But you know, and now you've sort of stepped out into a whole different area and you know, you're a debut author, which is a whole different world to being you know, like… It's out of your comfort zone a little bit. And you open your memoir with a prologue. And in that you tell readers that this is the book you promised yourself at 21 that you would write one day. So tell us about the day you decided it was time to write it.

Clare

Well, look… Twenty-one, the year I was twenty-one, the year was about 1996 – 97. And I was a woman who had many dreams as many of you do, too.

When I was twenty, I was working in a call centre. I'd dropped out of uni. I had a shit relationship going on that I was trying to escape from. Lovely guy, we just, you know, when you get into that co-dependent awfulness and we couldn't…

You know, things were a little dark and I decided that it would be a really great idea to do what was called a locational in the business. You know, we just get up and we're going to go to a new place, we're going to start again and everything's going to be great, which is one of the options that is currently not on offer at the moment in the middle of COVID-19 business. But then it was.

I left. I went to London. But on the night before I went to London, I wrote a big long list of all the things that I want to do with my, you know what Mary Oliver, the great poet Mary Oliver would call your one wild and precious life. And on that list right at the top was that I one day wanted to write a book.

And all of these things were utterly impossible at the time. Like I said, I was working in the call centre, I had never really played any of my own songs in public. I had been a backup singer around Melbourne, in pubs, but I had all these dreams.

And writing a book was really important to me. I wrote in my diary, in my journal every single day I had since I was thirteen. And I was writing lyrics and stories and they're all very, very secret because I thought they were just terrible. Anyway, and you know, nothing was good enough, but there I was giving it a crack.

So you jump forward to a year later, I was in a very different space. I hadn't had a good time in London. In fact, I'd had what's commonly referred to as a nervous breakdown, a full physical collapse. So I'd lost half my body weight, I was no longer leaving the house, I was having recurring panic attacks. And I was in a terrible, terrible place. Very dark place. I had chronic insomnia. And I didn't know why I was alive, basically. But I was hanging on because I always, you know, I come from a family where we know what grief is, we know what loss is. And I knew I was in it for the long haul. I was sticking around, but I didn't know why I was here.

I had the very good fortune to grow to understand what was going on for me. I didn't know what a panic attack was. I didn't know what anxiety was. I didn't know any of those things. And I read a book by a woman called Dr. Claire Weekes, who she was this wonderful stalwart of a woman, and Judith Hoare has recently written a glorious biography of her. And she was very much forgotten from history until right about now, which is very exciting because we need her more than ever.

She's passed on. But her book effectively taught me a simple technique for managing and understanding and recognizing my anxiety and no longer being bluffed by it. And I, in that experience, and this is a long answer, but it's important that I sort of say this upfront, this is the reason I wrote my book, and felt inspired to write my book, because I began to understand exactly how much a book can change your life, can offer comfort, can offer support.

And I thought to myself in that moment, right, if I do recover from this experience, I will one day tell this story. Now it was the 90s. Mental ill health was not something we had much language around. It was incredibly awkward and the thought of actually saying these things out loud was, you know, sort of spiralled me back into panic. But I'd made a promise to myself.

And to buy myself some time as I recovered, and this is long before anyone knew me in public or any of those things, I made myself a promise. I said that one day when I was very, very old, aka 40, I would write this story. And 40 came and it was time to do it. I had tried many times before; I had failed. I tried to write it as a book of poems, as a play, as a television script, you know, and it was just a bunch of bollocks. I needed to tell a true story. And I finally did.

Allison

So you kind of had a midlife crisis at 40 and sat down and did it?

Clare

No, I had the midlife crisis at 21. And at 40 I had the…

Allison

The gumption to do it.

Clare

Well, I just didn't have any… I don't have any shame around it anymore. I don't… And my children are old enough for me to not worry that they were going to be… That kids at school were gonna tease them because their mum had had an episode of mental ill health which, guess what? That generation, this generation are very au fait with the language of mental ill health.

Allison

Yep. It's a totally different world now to what it was in the 90s when you were experiencing it like that.

Clare

Absolutely. But yeah, the reality is, I tried to do it when I was doing a million other things, like being a radio broadcaster and all the rest of it. And the story was just too intense. I needed to put all those things aside. And it took me about 18 months from whoa to go to finally write it and get it published.

Allison

So what did you want the book to be? Because the thing that I find every author, you know, no, it doesn't matter what you write, is you have this idea in your head of what this book is going to be. And then you spend months and months and months and months trying to make the book into the thing that you want it to be. And sometimes, you know, I don't know that you ever get to the shining place where your inspiration first had you. But you get as close to it as you can. So tell us what you wanted the book to be. Like, what did you want for it? And from it?

Clare

It was very, very simple. I knew that this wasn't a rock'n'roll memoir. This was nothing to do with my career. This is nothing to do with fame or any of the reasons people would know me. I wrote it for the very simple reason that I had that memory of having been helped by a book. I knew it was a useful story because I had worked out a few things that were useful. And that was the compulsion. That was sort of the feeling of it.

So my real intention was to try and find a way to tell an entertaining story that's actually got a fair bit of trauma in it, without leaving people in the trauma of it, but by getting to the light of it. And so it was a really clear intention. Most things in my life are not this clear, but this one was spot on. I could see that reader. And now I know that reader because of this thing called Instagram and these things called book launches.

And I know that we're in a moment in time where the idea of a physical book launch is impossible for some of the authors who are listening. And my heart does go out to you, but I want you to know that you will still meet your readers.

Now, I had a very clear idea of who this might help. And I know that that's not a terribly literary ambition, you know, that this book will be useful to someone. But I really think it was that simple. It was like a baton. I was handed it at 21. I've tried in my work to pass down what I could of that. And this was just a clear sort of here you go, hope you, you know, go run with this. See if it's useful.

Allison 

So when I read it I feel as though I can hear you speaking. Like the voice of it is very, very clear. And now that I'm talking to you here I can even hear it even more strongly so therefore you are in my head forever more.

Clare

I may as well just have dictated it on to Dragon Dictate and pressed, you know…

Allison 

It kind of does feel that way. It's like you sat down one day, and were like, well, let me tell you a story.

Clare

I wish! Oh my gosh, I wish.

Allison 

I know. Wouldn't that have made it easy? But did it actually… Like, I know that you wanted it to be useful.

Clare

It nearly killed me.

Allison

And I know that you wanted readers… Seriously.

Clare

Yes, it did nearly kill me.

Allison

Did it? Well, we'll get to that bit. But did it actually feel strange? Like, it's a very personal story and I know that you wanted it to be useful and you wanted to tell it. But did it feel strange when it hit the shelves, knowing that people would actually be reading it? Because there is that moment of, oh wow.

Clare

Oh my gosh.

Allison

Yeah.

Clare

The week before, I was sick to my stomach with the thought of what the hell have I done?

Allison

Yep.

Clare

Fortunately, I mean, this story, a lot of this story talks about the development and the playing out of traumatic childhood brain and the long tail of that and how that can sort of be with us. And that necessitated talking about shared stories, about family stories, talking about my sister, Rowena, who passed away when I was five and she was seven after a very long illness, and tried to tell that, truthfully, respectfully, and from a child’s perspective.

But there was so… Because she had lived in intensive care on a life support machine for two years, there was a lot that I needed my family’s help with and permission with and we had conversations that we've never had. You know, anyone who’s lost a sibling or lost someone in their family knows that there are things that, you know, you just carry, you carry on and you do the best that you can. And if you don’t have to go back there, you don’t. Because, you know, my fear was always that I would cause additional trauma. And I know many of you are writing memoir as you're listening and you’re thinking, how will this affect people otherwise?

My approach was, I wrote what I wanted to write, I edited it heavily. There were two chapters that involved my family and I asked for their opinions and effectively for their blessing. They understood the heart of the story, so they knew why I had to include that stuff. But that was a bit, the week beforehand where I felt ill and I thought, dear god, you know, I hope I have done justice to my sister’s memory. I hope I’m not going to make things more difficult for the people who loved my sister. And what the hell am I doing?

So, to me, now I look back and I can see, oh yeah, every time I’ve done anything that was useful or interesting or, you know, that meant something to me, I effectively… I can shit myself in the bit just before you make it public. And that, to me is a sign that, you know, if I’ve done the work, that’s a sign that I’m on the right track, and that this is going to connect with someone.

Allison

So over the years, you’ve written hundreds of songs, and some of them have won awards. And you also say, in your memoir, that you’ve drawn on those songs and diaries in the process of writing the book. So just leaving the book aside for a moment, can you explain to us a little bit about how a song comes together for you? Is that possible?

Clare

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I thought about it a bit. It’s both impossible and possible. I’ll just tell you what I know. Because there’s always some unconscious element.

A song is a little like an itch. It appears, it’s usually embedded in a feeling that I don’t understand. It’s like a picture out of the corner of your eye. And I feel restless and unhappy until I sit down and invite it in and ask, what are you? So it’s like each one is its own little creature, and they let themselves be known. And I know that sounds a little esoteric, but that’s really how it’s always worked for me. Songs show up, and I have to make space for them to come in and if I don’t, you know, they move on. They go to the next place.

Allison

Do they show up lyrically, or do they show up musically?

Clare

It shows up first as a feeling and then usually I will sit at an instrument, and I will… So just practical stuff, I’ve always done this whether it was a mini disc play or a tape recorder or an iPhone. I press record, I start playing, I find that there are some words that I sing over the top. I start to get a sense coming together of what this thing is about or the theme of it. Or sometimes I don’t get that until I listen back afterwards, and I go, ah – excuse me – I’ve written another song about x, y and z.

You know, for example, the album What Was Left, I realised as I was writing those songs, that was my second album, the first album I wrote after becoming a mother, I realised that there was, you know, the theme of that was grief, that in becoming a mother, I had to go back and revisit my own childhood. Other themes have been lust or addiction or other interesting, juicy topics.

So that’s how a song comes to me. And it’s… I write at a ratio of about eight songs that aren’t finished or are discarded to every one song that I finish. And I just accept… And this knowledge of… The biggest bloody tip that I’ve got for any writer or songwriter is to just expect that you gonna write a whole lot of shit. Like a lot of what you’re going to write is just garbage, you know? You're just having to… The trick is to not judge yourself in that moment and keep going. And then keep going again, keep going again, because you will hit a sense of having stumbled on something that matters or something that’s beautiful or something that’s useful. But most of it is going to be absolute crap. And learning to, you know, as the saying goes, kill your darlings or discard those drafts along the way is the only way I’ve ever finished anything. If I stopped at the first notion of, Oh my god, this is no good, then I would still be perhaps quite happily working as a team leader in the call centre.

Allison

So, when it came to writing your memoir, and you say that you drew on the songs for that, was that the lyrics you drew on? The feelings that you drew on? How did you use what you’ve written, all of those years of all of that writing that you’ve done? Because song writing is such a lot of intense internal, you know, summoning up, isn't it? So, how did you use those songs in the writing of the book?

Clare

I’m pulling out a copy of the book now and I’m just looking in the chapter headings because effectively what I did was I named almost every chapter after a song. I’m one of those people who overwrite. I overwrite, not underwrite. I'll just explain. So I wrote about four times what I needed for this book. Most of it was just bullshit and unnecessary and just because, you know, that cathartic bit where you have to write it out.

And then I went back and was able to use a friend of mine, Em Rusciano, who’s another writer, and she’s a comedian and she…

Allison

She's all of the things.

Clare

She could see that I was in quite a little state one day going, god, how do I order this and that, and this and that. And she just went well, it seems obvious to me that you would use songs to bed down your chapter headings. And I went yeah, right, I’ll explore that.

So it was a really handy tip.

Allison

That's a handy tip, yep.

Clare

Well, the whole book is named after a song that I wrote from Modern Day Addiction called “Your Own Kind of Girl” which was one of the first times I spoke publicly about struggles I’ve had with my body, with diet, with thinking, and with courage. And, you know, that’s another reason, that’s another difference, point of difference between songs and a book. You know, in songs you really can hide a lot more than you can in a memoir.

So, anyway, the songs were useful because they helped me organise my thoughts in a way. So a song like “Empty Pockets”, which is chapter nine, I wrote that before any of us knew each other, and it spoke into the time that I wrote it about. You know, so the lyrics, “Human Being”, that was the ending chapter, that’s one of the first songs I wrote. And it’s just completely parallel, the writing of that song is parallel with the time in that chapter. So, I guess that was that was a handy little organising principle.

Allison

Okay, so when you actually sat down to write the memoir, did you start at the beginning? Did you progress the manuscript in a kind of logical way? Like, I’m gonna start here and I’m gonna write all the way to where I’m up to right now?

Clare

Wouldn’t that have been wonderful?

Allison

I know. Well, this is the question. What's the process for writing something like this for you?

Clare

My process was incredibly messy, full of self-doubt, ill-feeling, avoidance. My only saving grace is that I kept showing up. And I kept asking for support and help along the way. I really did. From people I trusted, not just sort of randomly, from other friends who had survived this process. I was able to text them and say, is this normal? I feel like giving up. And they would say, yes, that’s normal. Just keep going. And then, you know, that went on for 18 months. So it was, I don’t think the writing of a memoir is for the faint-hearted.

I will write another book, I’m sure of it. And I do suspect, and this could be foolish, but I do suspect the writing of a memoir is the hardest book that you write. And I look at the, you know, open the book, and I look at how much it benefited from editing and conversation. And my publisher, Kelly, was an absolute champion, Kelly Fagan, from Allen and Unwin. She fought hard for the book, in the beginning, she worked hard on the book with me, she took on a big task because I was a first time writer. Between her and Ellie Leveaux* and Kristen Woods* who helped with the editing, we have a finished product. But I gotta say, if you left me in a room on my own with it, I would still be in in my habitual compulsive way writing and rewriting and rewriting the same chapter.

So deadlines helped me, responsibility helped me. And commitment to other people helped me.

Allison

Did you have a contract in place for the book before you began? Like, how did it come to be published?

Clare

No. I wrote, I tried for many, many years to write. Like I said, I really did write this book in a few different ways, and try to avoid the intensity of making it a memoir. And I found that the truth was I couldn’t avoid that. You know, that this is what this book wanted to be. And I had to respect that or otherwise live with the feeling that I had, you know, betrayed its intention.

So again, I had a contract with myself to write it. I tried many times and I kept failing. So what I did do that was courageous, because I think the… Again, the work of art and putting your thoughts and feelings into the world, when the world may or may not care about them, is a big ask and commend anyone who’s wanting to do that. Because there’s probably a reason you want to do that.

What I did do was I let a couple of friends read my script. I’m very lucky to have a husband who has a good friend called Peggy Frew. And she’s our good friend, she has been in a band with my husband for 20 years. So Peggy was a first reader and Jamila was a first reader and they gave me some encouraging useful feedback.

And my path to publishing, and I like to give as much practical useful info as I possibly can, because this is the stuff that I was craving, just to know it was possible, is I have another friend who is an author, a wonderful author – you know, she writes the most beautiful, playful, readable books – called Zoe. She said, well, why don’t I introduce you to my agent. Again, that was a step in the way, in the path, you know.

So I’d had the encouragement of a couple of friends who’d read it and given me editing tips. I got together maybe six chapters that made sense to me – not of all, I didn’t use them in the final draft, but there were six chapters that were good and clear – and a synopsis of what the book would be. I had a meeting with a beautiful agent called Pippa Masson from Curtis Brown. And luckily, we hit it off. And she believed in the story, even though I was still very shy. And from there, we moved to a process of, you know, she helped me find the right publisher for the book.

So those things were… You know, I’ve had lots of time in my life where I haven’t known who to ask. I started from the bottom up in everything that I’ve done. But when it came to writing this book, I was very lucky because of the friendships and the way that they were able to support me. But I think, you know, these friendships are… I don’t know how to do anything on my own. I don’t know if we get to write books on our own. I look at, for example, Holly Ringland and Trent Dalton, you know, and I see the way that at last year’s, there was an award ceremony, and they were talking to each other about the things that, you know, the workshops they've done together on their way up. And so we all need each other when we’re going to write a book because it’s too big for just one person.

Allison

Well, we do. And it is something that Valerie and I talk about often on this podcast is the importance of having those friends, of making those friends, of talking to the people in the workshops with you, or talking to the people at the festivals with you and developing that, that crew around you. And those people who are around the same kind of level as you wherever you’re at is always a useful thing to have.

So as a debut author, was there anything that surprised you about the publishing process itself?

Clare

Everything surprised me. I had no idea how it worked. I'm like, right, so I give you a draft and then you give me a draft back? And then I… Right, oh my God, it takes that long? Really? So I write it and then you need this amount of time, too?

And, you know, there’s always this… There was a big and delightful surprise that people were reading it. That’s a good feeling. So that was a good surprise. But I had no idea. I was like a kid. Like, I had no idea about timeframes, about logistics.

I, you know, it turns out my mother, Maria, who I asked for a bit of a, you know, blessing along the way, she handed me back my manuscript. It had about 79,000 Post-It notes popping out of it, and I thought, dear fucking god. You know, what the… This is… I'm going to have to not write this. Turns out she’s a very good line editor. You know, I didn't even really… She was able to pick up some grammatical errors that I had had ever since I went to uni at the age of 22. I studied a Bachelor of Creative Arts. Writing was one of my majors. And, you know, I just had come to writing quite honestly but without much structure, really.

So anyway, everything about it surprised me. And…

Allison

And here you are.

Clare

And here I am.

Allison

Still surprising.

Clare

It’s a miracle that we got here. Miracle.

Allison

You also have a family. You have three, as we’ve discussed, your son, you have three teenage kids. How do you manage creativity around the business of being Clare – because you know, you are a business you’re, you know, you’re a speaker, a musician and actor and all of those things that you are – and then the day to day management of family and life and stuff? Where do you fit this stuff in?

Clare

It’s a really big question. And I’m going to do my best not to ramble. So I make my living by sharing my thoughts, feelings and encouraging other people do the same by trying to make things that I think mean something in the world. I try to do that in the most entertaining way that I can. And I have always understood that my great advantage is that I am very, very much like all the people in my audience. You know, my audience is a gang of humans who I get along pretty well with. And that started as 20 people. There are now more people in that game, but the same principle applies.

So I’ve never been shy about talking about the mess, the beautiful chaos of juggling… Juggling is not the right word… Of muddling through, continuing to have a creative life when you have family. My advantage is, my creative life in public only really started and got, I only really got the rocket up my bum, when I was pregnant with my first child. Because I suddenly thought, I do know this is what I want to do with my life. I do suspect that’s true. I want to make things that are connecting to other people. So I got brave, because I had to make a living. And I thought, if I’m ever going to try and make a living doing what I love, which felt almost impossible, I better do it now.

So I got pretty… My first tour, I was already a mum, we had a one year old. I have, my husband and I do it together. He was then my boyfriend, Marty, the drummer in my band.

So the way I do it is we have been fiercely co-parenting, which was a little bit radical 18 years ago when we became parents, fiercely co-parenting since the beginning. We know how to live frugally when we need to, which is a necessary skill in the kind of ever changing times and ever changing fortunes of being an artist in Australia, which is you know, we have a small population. So you’ve got to be pretty clever and quick on your feet tick to keep making a living doing it this way. And so that’s a practical skill that’s really useful.

But the truth is my… The friction and joy and muck and disappointment and glory of attempting to be a mum to these beautiful kids is a fuel in my creative life because it keeps me curious and asking questions. And it keeps me wanting to do something useful in the world because I love them. And I want to make them proud.

So for me, that dichotomy has worked well, as long as I could accept that I was never going to… I was never going to get away with being anything other than I am. There was no point me trying to be… You see these sort of celebrities who always look a certain way or they’re very well groomed or they don’t swear or they somehow control their weight or they present, their kids are always, their hair is always done perfectly, they cook perfectly roast chicken meals.

Nup! It just doesn't… I just knew as long as I didn’t try and do that to myself I would still have room and heart and desire to have a creative life. I hope that makes sense.

Allison

It does, and it totally sums up, you know, you are your own kind of girl. And there you are, with your book. Right there. Look at that. Beautiful.

Now you mentioned that you’ve now sort of jumped into the Facebook with quarantine with Jam and Clare. Do you enjoy being on that online… Obviously, right now particularly it’s probably never been more important for authors to have that online visibility. But is that something that you enjoy? Is that something that comes easy to you, that sort of social media online space?

Clare

I enjoy Instagram enormously and I find that an easy medium. I can’t explain why. Just in my mind, it’s organised and ordered in a certain way, the visuals work for me, and it’s not too cluttered. I get lost in Facebook. Our quarantine group was a really beautiful idea that Jamila had, and I’m in there learning as I go. I like Facebook, but I’ve never been very good at administrating groups because I don’t like saying… I mean, it has to be curated space, otherwise it’s just a clutter. And that means saying, thank you so much to people. It means not posting every single thing that gets offered and that’s against my nature. I sort of like and I like to open up.

Thankfully, Jamila is a natural born boss. She’s very good at that. She has a media background and she knows, she has an eye for what’s going to…

Allison

She knows how to edit.

Clare

Yeah, she knows how to edit. And that’s a real gift to the people in that group. Like I said, we thought there’ll be 50 people. There are 5000 today. If, you know, it’s a little like the virus itself, it keeps sort of multiplying, which is, in our case, a positive thing because those women and a couple of men are giving me a reason to get up in the morning and a thing to do and a hopeful place to be because their courage and their honesty in there is exciting to me. It’s keeping me going.

In the last week, you know, Jamila and I have just done silly things like we fold washing as we're doing Facebook Lives. We have a chat, we’ve run sing-alongs, we do pyjama parties. And also there’s other real things. So this week, I went to a funeral of a dear friend Shusie who had this beautiful organisation, still does, it's still going, called Life's Little Treasures, to talk about being at a funeral in the age of COVID-19, where social distancing is necessary and how terribly impossible that conundrum is in grief. That’s another thing we get to talk about in there.

But we’re generally… I mean, again, is that easy for me? Once I realise they're human beings and we’re talking to each other, yes, it’s easy. What’s not easy is, at the moment, I can’t answer every DM I get and I want to. I don’t like that feeling.

Allison

You need to set some boundaries.

Clare

Yeah, and that’s annoying to me. But that’s, you know, it’s arrogant to think it’s going to be any other way. So yeah, I don't mind it. I quite like it.

Allison

Okay. So what’s next for Clare Bowditch? I believe you've got a new album. Is this correct?

Clare

Yeah, it is.

Allison

Or did I make that up?

Clare

No! No!

Allison

I could have made it up. Like, it's possible.

Clare

Look, I’ve got a couple… I’m like most other creatives. In the last two weeks… I actually was set to… Marty and I and our family was set to have a bloody good season. We had some wonderful events lined up and unfortunately 14 of 15 events, including Sydney Writers Festival and Melbourne Writers Festival and Newcastle Writers Festival and Blue Mountains Writers Festival, have either been postponed or cancelled or changed and most of the ways that I make money have been cancelled.

Here’s where I'm fortunate. I do have two projects that are on the go. So yes, there's an album on the go. And Island Records have been very bloody generous and patient as I’ve sort of gone yes, this is the year, oh, I think I’ll write a book. Oh, I think I’ll do a radio show.

Allison

I think I'll do something else.

Clare

So I love them very, very much. But what I’m also doing is I’m doing an Audible original, I’ve been working on an Audible original, something that’s sort of based on the themes of Your Own Kind of Girl, but quite practical. And I won’t give away any more because it’s going to be fun. But I’m also working on that at the moment. So I will continue doing that, hanging out in my Facebook group.

Allison

Folding your washing.

Clare

Folding washing. But I just want to put a little shout out there. I know it is a really tough time for anyone who was going to write a book or more than that was going to release a book in this period of time. We were due to do events with, I’d been invited to do an event with Trent Dalton, we were due to do an event with Julia Gillard, which we hope will still go ahead. Who knows?

But in this… You know, it’s not just first time debut authors who are needing to pivot and be clever or postpone or feel scared in this climate. It’s all sorts of writers. And I just want to, on a practical note, say if you’ve written a good book and you’re able to find creative ways to back it and be useful and be able to talk about it in this environment, there is still, there is some juicy freakin' opportunities. Because book sales are up, actually. The independent bookstores who we love and support are going to need good books to sell when they open their doors again. And if you can offer them one and make yourself, you know, beloved to them and do them a favour by writing a bloody good book, then good on you, you know, go for it.

And if I can be helpful, honestly, if I can be helpful, do DM me, even though I might take a while to get back to you. But I do, you know, I do want to…

Allison

Clare! Boundaries! Remember? We just talked about this.

Clare

I know. I know. But I do… I know. I mean, I would… I nearly put my book off and to release it around about now because of chronic self-doubt. I feel lucky that I didn’t because you have to put a lot of energy into pivoting but you can do it.

Allison

You can do it. All right. Well, let’s finish up today. It's been an absolute, can I just say, and I’m sure that our listeners will agree, it has been an absolute pleasure.

Clare

Oh, Allison with two Ls, it’s been my pleasure. I love it.

Allison

But I just want to finish up for today, we always ask our authors for their top three tips for writers and I’m sure you’ll have some crackers for us, Clare.

Clare

Well, the first one is expect to feel like absolute shit. Expect to have a very, very, very loud voice of self-doubt there. That’s completely normal. That is your survival brain saying just stick to the norm and don’t, you know, just keep it simple. So number one is expect to have the voice of self-doubt there and write anyway.

Number two, for me what really did help was writing first thing in the morning and being routine with it. So I treated it like a job. And it was my priority for the day. So that’s number two.

And number three is really around what I mentioned today: you need a crew. If that is your local library writing group, if that is your community group, if that is an online course, if that is your lecturer at uni, if that is just a friend who said, well, I’ll read your book for you – call on them. And at the moment, one of my mates, local lady Catherine Deveny, for example, you know, she does these classes called Gunnas. She has a book about writing. If you don’t have a structure or a mentor, just get that book. That’s one of the many useful books that’s available. That’ll give you a bit of a kickstart.

Main thing is just sit down and write.

Allison

Excellent. All right. Well, thank you so much for that, Clare. And good luck with all of your things, folding your washing and everything else as well.

Clare

I bloody need it.

Allison

Kids at home and…

Clare

Can I just ask, if your house, is it just me or is your house… Like, I have failed as a home-schooling mum, for one. My house is chaos.

Allison

Look, I just think we all just need to lean into it. Honestly, I'm just like, I'm trying to keep a routine going where I can. But I’m also going, this is not a normal day, so let’s not have a normal time. It’s just not gonna happen. So I think if we can all do that and keep our washing folded, then we’re doing really, really well.

Clare

Exactly. Well done.

Allison

Thank you very much, Clare.

Clare

Thank you. It’s been great to chat. Lots of love to everyone.

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