Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m an author and playwright who hails from New York, but has called Australia home for over 25 years. I’ve been a frustrated, would-be novelist all my life, enjoying my work in medico-politics, ethics and business over the years, but always craving some sort of creative outlet. About five years ago, I finally took the plunge, deciding to focus on my writing, and was buoyed by some early success: a short play being picked in Melbourne, a prize for a short story, winning an international monologue competition. The Trouble in Tune Town means a lot to me, not only because it’s my first published book, but because it was inspired by my children. When I wasn’t working on the book, I was plugging away at my young adult novel, Freefalling, and was thrilled to be named Winner of the CBCA Aspiring Writers Mentorship Program 2017 and recipient of the Charlotte Waring Barton Award for my manuscript. I’ve always gravitated towards big ideas, so it’s perhaps not surprising that I ended up with three philosophy degrees (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.). When I’m not writing, I enjoy reading, travelling, bushwalking and spending time with my husband, Kieran, and our three teenagers.

Who or what inspired you?

There are many people who have inspired in different areas of my life over the years for different reasons. But my writing journey has always had its own sense of inevitability. In a strange way, I always knew I’d end up writing as a career, despite for a long time having no idea of when or how this was going to happen. The Trouble in Tune Town was inspired by my children. They had piano lessons from an early age and, although they loved music, they were never keen to practice. That’s an understatement – music practice was an ongoing battle in our house! It was another chore for the kids who were already flat out with schoolwork and co-curricular commitment, and a source of stress when they couldn’t work out the notes. In any given week, one of them wanted to give up. That’s when the underlying message for the book was born: Practice should never be a fight. If you’re having fun, then you’re playing all right.


What has been your journey up to this point?

I’ve definitely taken the scenic route! As a child, I had an innate feeling that writing would always be part of my life, and I remember announcing to my Year 3 class that I would be an author. In my 20s I completed my degrees and started chasing some great work opportunities; in my thirties, not long after I married, I backed myself, leaving a good job to open my own business, while starting a family; in my forties, our family – and business – grew and then grew again; and in my fifties all the planets started to align, enabling me to finally carve out some time for myself and for writing. That sounds relatively straightforward but the journey was riddled with peaks and troughs – still is! Small business and writing can be all consuming … so can teenagers 😉


What are you working on now?


Right now, I’m working juggling a few projects, as usual. I’ve just written the script for a series of monologues on mental health issues facing young people, and I’m looking for a youth theatre/ensemble to help devise thematic links. In late March, I head to WA, where I’ll be working on the second act of my latest play as part of a two-week KSP Fellowship. The Trouble in Tune Town is being launched on 6 May at the National Library of Australia, so I’ve been busy planning and marketing the event. A local community music organisation, Music for Canberra, is participating, with one of their youth ensembles playing on the day. I’m so excited and grateful for their support.

As a child, what was your relationship with books?

Words have always been a key to discovery, not only about myself but the world, and I was an early and avid reader, devouring any book that I could get my hands on. The countless characters I met on the page seemed more like friends as we set out on adventures, solving mysteries, overcoming challenges, finding love, experiencing loss. I was always drawn to text, often putting pen to page to work through thoughts and emotions, never sending the letters to the intended recipients but always feeling much better after writing them. I’m much older now, but I still write to make sense of the world.


What is the most important thing about what you do?

I always feel unburdened after writing, as though I’ve somehow been cleansed. There’s a sense of pride and satisfaction that comes from creating a world and inhabiting it with characters that undergo some sort of transformation. Writing can be transformative too, often leading to a jumbled mess of inspiration, frustration, turmoil, desperation and enlightenment – all in the same day! I may sound selfish when I say I write for myself, not for others, but it’s true. The important thing for me is that I write the story that I want to tell, often the story that I feel needs to be told, unencumbered by self-editing and internal obstacles, and external constraints. Easier said than done.


What are the challenges you face in this industry?


Rejection is the norm in the publishing industry, so the leap caused a seismic shift on many levels. Most of my self-identity had been caught up in work and parenting, and suddenly I had a new identify: writer. I often felt self-indulgent, as though I was spending far too much time on an enjoyable hobby, writing for myself (and my imaginary friends) when I could have been doing something ‘productive’. In fact, it took me quite a while to consider myself a writer (if only I could have bottled the confidence of my younger days!). There are many obstacles and pitfalls in the publishing industry, but I think my biggest barrier, at times, has been myself, but I’ve come to learn that realising that is half the battle.


What advice can you offer to aspiring authors?


I’d offer the following tips (in no particular order), bearing in mind there are no hard and fast rules, and everyone needs to find what works best for them.

  • Back yourself.
  • Always read the fine print.
  • Check your ego at the door.
  • Be patient.
  • Remember to laugh.
  • Don’t be defined by your work.
  • When in doubt, go with your gut.
  • Be open to flipping your world upside down then back again. The ride may make you nauseated but it can shake out a few gems.


What is your definition of success?

My definition of success is doing what you love and doing it well, while still staying connected to the important things in life – friends, family and community.


What is your ultimate goal?


Professionally – my short-term goal is to get my YA novel published, and I’d love to see it picked up as a secondary school English text. My long-term goal is to be able to continue to grow as a writer, to have the freedom to pursue projects that interest me, and for writing to be a source of inspiration and comfort (not stress!) in my life.

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