I’m a writer.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m only a writer because I am utterly crap at everything else. Everything else. I have been many other things and failed miserably. I was a bank teller briefly but I harboured a sneaky desire to be a bank robber and that wasn’t going to work so I quit before the inevitable happened. I was a cleaner but I’m quite hyperactive and never took the time to do the job very well – a bit of spit and polish and a spray of air freshener and that was it. I never managed a Savoy corner on the bed-sheets or a completely smudge-free mirror. I taught kindergarten kids but I really don’t like small children unless they share some of my DNA and I often laughed when they fell off swings. I did a law degree and nearly died of boredom. The thought of being an actual lawyer made me break out in life-threatening hives. I almost got a job writing dating profiles for people looking for love  but I did not impress with my sarcastic and slightly offensive trial sample-profiles.

I always wrote stories at school and spent a life living in a world of make-believe. The nuns called me a day-dreamer. I could string a sentence together and liked writing and developed a weird fantasy about being Jackie Collins or Judith Krantz because they wrote wonderful smut that was banned from the school library and they made bucketloads of money and looked frightfully glamorous on their book sleeves while I was then a pimply teenager with a libido going haywire. But somewhere along the way, the fantasy fell flat because after many futile attempts, I realised that it was actually hard work to write a whole book.

But, after living a life like a headless chicken, trying a bit of this and a bit of that, and pretty much exhausting every other avenue, I decided to have a stab at being a writer and forced myself to write a book-ful of words in some semblance of order and started sharing it about….

Only to discover that the heady world of publishing that had routinely doled out six figure advances to writers and built them up into glossy celebrities…..had died and been replaced by some austere fortress being guarded by accountants. I learned that in the cold hard real world of ‘now’,  writers have to compete like beggars for a low four-figure advance and will be lucky to ever make a cent past it and will be forgotten and chucked in a bargain bin in the blink of a teary eye. No amount of bouffed up hair and eyeliner is going to make you a literary star…you have to write brilliantly and yet still make it something that people want to read en masse.

I don’t think I’m a particularly good writer. Every time I read a book by someone else, I wish until it hurts that I’d written it. Other writers weave words together so effortlessly, spinning humour and suspense while keeping the reader spell-bound and transported to other worlds and times and places. I love books. The look of them. The smell of them. The way they suspend belief and reality. How they sculpt my mind and emotions. I even love how they sit on book-shelves, upright, sideways or all in a pile. I’m a bibliophile. I love books more than cake. Every single book.

No. I lie. I actually really hate anything written by Neville Shute. I know that sounds mean and a little bit blasphemous. But I was forced to read one of his books as a school-kid and it felt like water torture and I’ve never forgiven him for writing it and can’t bring myself to try another. Like that time I got food poisoning from a fish-burger and can’t even look at another or Dimple Scotch which bruised me permanently with my very first hangover. I’m sure Neville’s books are wonderful but the childhood trauma won’t leave me, so it is what it is. Everyone has a favourite writer (mine is Emily Bronte because she writes like a mad-woman) and I suspect everyone also has a least favourite. Oh, I also hate Beatrix Potter. Another sacrilege. But it’s more about the illustrations. I don’t trust those small water-coloured animals and I keep reading between the lines of her text looking for something really nasty and sinister and I always end up disappointed and faintly nervous.

So I’m a writer. It has its up side…I never get out of pyjamas. I work in bed. I am thirteen paces from the kitchen pantry. I don’t have to speak to other humans. I can kill people and have wild affairs…on the page.

The down side is that I think my butt cheek has died. No, really. I think my gluteus maximus has atrophied from sitting in the same spot day in day out, tapping words into a laptop. Also three of my fingers (the ones that hit the most popular vowels and consonants like a and t on the keyboard) are showing signs of deteriotive erosion. I’m not even making this shit up although I’m a writer so I’d forgive you for thinking so.

Also, being a writer is very, very bad for your self-esteem, your ablity to get along with other flesh and blood people and your general mental health…and your body parts. You will pour your heart onto the page and send it full of good cheer and hope and wishes to those living in the impenetrable fortresses via the wire and you will wait and wait and wait and wait and wait…..ad infinitum….until maybe….someone tells you that your work is CRAP. They rarely use that word. Usually they will say something like ‘good luck but not for us’. Most politely pretend they never saw your words and you will just wither forever waiting for that never-coming response. Rejection will become so common that you stop being disappointed when one comes pinging into your inbox like a fart-bomb and you’ll throw your head back and laugh like Jim Carrey and scream ALRIGHTY THEN!

Or….rarely….like once in a polka dot moon….someone will like what you wrote and contract it and then change it to be more like what they want and less what you thought it was and you will end up with a book that is loosely what you started but with the fingerprints of many others on it and you will look at it and sigh….’I’m a real writer now’ and then you will discover GOODREADS and learn that you only think you’re a writer and anonymous people with profile photos of cats have realised immediately that your book is a sham and it sucks and you should go back to writing dating profiles for losers that no-one could ever love.

But maybe I’m just being cynical.

It is all worth it. The dead bum. The gnarled fingers. The abject poverty. The smell of my week-old pyjamas that are gunked into my crevices and will need to be showered off, leaving raw patches of skin.

I have a new book coming out and I am so, so excited. This one. Maybe this one will be it. I’ll puff up my hair and slap on some lippy and put on real clothes and go out and flog it to the masses. I’ll pretend I don’t read the bad reviews while using the reviewer’s name as a character in my next novel, the character who has their entrails unraveled by the dashing serial killer….and I’ll walk past the bargain bin the very next week and pull my leftover books out and buy them all and give them as gifts to family members for the next few years.

No…I’m sorry. I seem to be painting this picture of being a writer all wrong. It’s actually a dream come true. My name on an actual book. In a book store. A library. It is a thrill. An incredible thrill, to hold your very own book in your hands. All the words came out of your heart, your head, your soul. The thrill is like…so thrilling…it’s…there are no words. But it’s short-lived.

It’s short-lived.

I love being a writer because it teaches you things. It teaches you humility (and a bit of humiliation); it teaches you courage (and a little bit of masochism); it teaches you resilience (and a little bit of naivete)….

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who’d be a writer? Me.



Sometimes writers run out of ink….

That’s where I find myself today.

It’s not writer’s block. It’s writer’s bleak.

It’s raining and the ‘bleak’ has set it.  I know it’s diaphanous. I can put my hand right through it like it’s Caspar the Not-so-friendly Ghost. And yet it clings to me. A cold mist. And it feels so real because its breath summons the hairs on the back my neck, bristling them like the quills on a frightened caterpillar.

It will lift. I know this because I am the ‘bleak’ and the lighthouse.

Today I have no ink. I’ve run dry.

With two books scheduled for release this year and two more being considered by people in the world of publishing, I can afford to rest a notch. I will relax and sink into the softness beneath the ‘bleak’ like a dive beneath the breaking waves that roll tumultously above without buffeting me about in their chaos.

The ‘bleak’ is like the Nothingness in The Never-Ending Story. It rolls in like a thundercloud, dark and menacing and it obscures the ‘everything’ as it envelops and laps over the terrain of my mind.

But I have learned to read the weather-charts and can smell the petrichor easing up from the soil beneath my feet, up, up, into my nostrils, the tinny scent that heralds rain. I am ready when the ‘bleak’ rolls in. I rug up, take a deep breath, put down my quill and batten down the hatches. Sleep is good. Reading other writers’ words is good. Today is for soft, downy pillows, a blanket fort and some David Sedaris because god knows I’m not in any mood for Virginia Woolf.

It is actually raining. Out of the sky. A Lorikeet, fluffed and soggy, sits at my window, staring at me and I know exactly how she feels.

I will start my new writing project soon. Not today. Probably not tomorrow.

But deep, deep down in the subterranean cavern of my grey matter, a little bell rings and a tiny golden speck of light glows. My lighthouse is there. I’ll navigate my way past the rocks tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that.

It’s okay to ride the ‘bleak’. It’s okay to be grey.

Pen down and breathe…..


The warrior woman has awoken.

No longer will she polish her husband’s shoes, bring honour to her father’s name, pamper and praise her little boys. No longer will she sit silently while men decide her fate. She has been silenced and shouted down and shoved into subservience while being polished and pinched and powdered pretty in pink and poked and preened and pawed and played for cheap thrills.

She is not a plaything but playful. She is not a trophy although you can earn her love. She doesn’t nag, she expects respect and says so. She won’t let men make rules that hurt her. When she says ‘enough!’ she means it and ‘no’ always means ‘no’ no matter how hard you try to bend it.

It’s 2018 and it is an awesome thing to be a woman. As the dawn of Aquarius rises, it brings a chariot with a new breed of Boudiccas, waving and shouting and singing and celebrating…the fact that they are strong and smart and hopeful.

I am a writer and I have written young adult books with strong female characters, girls who inspire, girls who make sacrifices and work to make the world a better place for not only their daughters but also their sons. They build a world for the future where women and men stand beside one another without the handicap of sexism or racism or ageism or any other ism.

In the wake of the most recent school shooting in the US, a new chant has arisen led by the youth who will be our future and for the first time in a long time, I have renewed hope for that future. I listened to Emma Gonzalez so powerfully speak out against the system that allowed a 19 year old boy to buy a gun and kill seventeen of her school-mates in cold blood. Gonzalez is the role model young women need today. She is standing up to the conservative white men in suits who line their pockets with money splattered in children’s blood. She is owning the President and the NRA like a boss!

In the wake of the election of that misogynist scary clown to the position of US President, a wave of women’s voices began to roar. A ‘man’ who admitted to sexual assault so casually, so flippantly, was elected to the nation’s highest office. He stepped into the shoes of great men. But he was a scab on a diseased society, a man-child with grabby hands and a petulant pout. Women picked away the scab and let the pus pour out. #METOO was born. Women are being heard.  More importantly, women are being believed.

I have a teenage daughter and I said to her this morning, ‘In a world of Kardashians, be a Gonzalez.’

Don’t back down. For so long, these old white men have run the joint with their power-hungry, gluttonous greed and trampled over women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, refugee’s rights, almost every basic human right that didn’t directly benefit themselves. It’s time to stand up and tell them that we don’t live in their small world. The ants are resisting the grasshoppers. The crumpled suits may well represent the one percent but we have the numbers. We are legion.

The revolution is here and Boudicca is on the frontline.

My book Victorieux, a young adult novel about three powerful young women who resist the patriarchy and wave their swords confidently, shouting ‘Bring it on! BRING. IT. ON’ will be released in October this year.

My three Boudicca-babes are

Jeanne Hachette – a poor French maid who led an army of women in resistance against the Burgundians, who sought to sack her town in 1478.

Betsy Grey – an Irish lass who was a part of the underground Irish movement against the British occupation of her beloved country in 1798.


Fiona McKechnie – a girl who gets caught up in the power and passion of the protest movement at a Brisbane university and marches against conscription into the Vietnam war (1968).

It’s never been a better time to be a woman. Or a young adult writer. Catniss Everdeen kicked down the door and strong girls are rushing through it en masse and it makes my heart glad. We write stories not to entertain but to inspire young people into action. They are our tomorrow.

The fight is real. The power imbalance is still unacceptable. But when a tragedy occurs that unites us all in grief and anger, it is heartening to hear the voice of a woman like Emma Gonzalez bursting through the ashes…

We are women….hear us roar. We have the blood of Boudicca pulsing in our veins. Don’t stand in our way or we will eat your frickin’ entrails!



Planet Earth, we have a problem.

It’s called the United States of America.

Dear America,

Yesterday, I watched, with the rest of the world, as the horror of another one of your school shootings unfolded in real time on our screens. Children running in fear, the heart-jolting terror in screams recorded on teenagers’ phones laid over the somehow unreal sounds of the patter and pop of gunshot. Aerial footage of SWAT teams, ambulances being loaded, the raw grief on the faces of the mothers and fathers and teachers and students, the shell-shocked Sheriff.

And then came your whining, glib, pathological call to not ‘politicize the  tragedy’ and your heartless, diseased, ice-cold and calculated plea to blame ‘mental illness’ for the tragedy because guns don’t kill people, dontcha know? People kill people. As Alan Alda said, we can all agree that people kill people but it’s also true that they do so, and far more effectively, with guns, than with their own bare human hands.

Some of you agree with me. Keep shouting the good shout.

But to the America that believes it has a god-given (that’s a bit rich) right to bear arms and worship at the teat of the NRA….


Yes, people kill people and the YOU are the people doing the killing with your tools of death….your toys…your rifles and shotguns, your machine guns and sub-machine guns, your automatic, assault, personal defense handbag-sized, lolly-gobble-bliss-bomb bullshit pistols. The most recent boy to inflict such pain into the community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was definitely not of sound mind but he had one thing in common with you…a love of guns. And it was that that killed those school children.  An irrational and deadly love affair with guns.

Guns are good for one thing only. Death. That’s it. Oh sure you can go and play target practice….it’s just a game…sport….(go for it….you get more points if you hit the human outline in the head). So it makes sense eh, that where you’ve got a lot of guns, you’ve got a lot of death. It’s really pretty basic. In the US gun deaths are off the chart. Here in Australia, they are rare. I’ve never seen or held a gun outside of the war museum. Never once in my entire life would a gun have helped me out of a situation. Not once. I am the mother of five and grandmother of one and none of us has ever needed a gun…or seen a gun…or held a gun…other than an over-sized plastic water gun.

Civilians are safer without guns. Civilians would be more civil, without guns.

But, America, you have more than just a problem of having way too many metal death sticks firing bullets into every man, woman, child and pet; more than your politicians being owned by the big NRA dollars; more than disenfranchised, frustrated and confused young white men with questionable racist tendencies hammering bullets into the bodies of innocent school students, children killing children; more than your paranoid fear of immigrants….

more than that

I believe that you, the United States of America, may be a psychopath. Like every human body, countries are made up of good and bad bacteria that have to co-exist. It’s naive and counterproductive to call it red and blue, right-wing and left-wing. But when your showy, loud and angry voices demand that you be able to cling onto your precious gun-rights, while a troubled teenage boy can legally buy a AR-15 and wander into a school and not only take seventeen lives but destroy hundred of others left behind, then there is a problem and you ARE THE PROBLEM. Your bad bacteria is out-of-control because you have more than 300 million guns floating around in your body!

You numbskulls offer your fricking thoughts and prayers while your head honcho sociopath wearing the orange crown of antisocial postulating, decries the terrible problem of ‘mental illness’, all the while having his butt kissed by gun lobbyists. You people make me sick and not just me but the whole rest of the world. We felt sorry for you once, twice, hell repeatedly, but there comes a time when you have to start taking responsibility for your own health and broken condition and admit it and start making amends.

This time, America, you’ve gone too far. You are that parent who is so dysfunctional they can’t look after their own kids. You need to wake up. Stop loving your guns more than your own children!


We had a prime minister who was largely a giant jerk but after our worst massacre, he banned guns, tightened the laws. BANG! And now, I don’t have to worry that my toddler is going to blow my brains out all over my peanut butter toast at breakfast time.


If I lived in your diseased country, I would be too afraid to send my children to school…any school. EVER.

America. Your schools are not safe. Your streets are not safe. America, you are not safe.

I’ve long wanted to visit you and see your Grand Canyon and shop in New York City, go to Disneyland and surf at Malibu but as long as you are suffering from this dangerous mental disorder, I just can’t risk coming anywhere near you.

America, you are a psychopath and you need help.

Your antisocial behaviour, impaired empathy (because after Sandy Hook….Vegas….Columbine….YOU DID NOTHING BUT PRAY), impaired remorse (you should feel guilty, really guilty), egotistical sense of self-worth (you are not that great and are in no immediate danger of becoming so)…..

it all points to the one diagnosis of ‘psychopath’.

You have some decent, intelligent voices over there advocating for strict changes to gun laws. They are the voice of reason. Listen to them. For the sake of your children.

Over 30, 000 people in your country die each year from gunshots. Yes they are fired by human beings but your addiction to firearms is fuelling an epidemic and you are so bound up in it you don’t know that you are sick. But take it from the rest of the world ….you need help. You can change and you need to urgently.

Don’t let those seventeen beautiful souls who were murdered by a gun yesterday become just another one of your many, many, many, many, many, many statistics.

Admit you have a problem and seek to cure it.

Love the rest of the outraged world. xx



The really exciting news is that I have a new book coming out on July 2nd.

A memoir.

Yes. I have done the unthinkable again and decided to chainsaw open my chest and spill out little bits of my heart all over the page for strangers to pore over. Am I a complete masochist? A complete narcissist? A complete exhibitionist?

Yes. To all of the above.

You need to be all of those things to be able to write memoir.

For the last few years I’ve been focusing on writing for a young adult audience but this one, ‘Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood,’ is for an older market. For mums and for those who’ve had mums or mother figure’s in their lives. That is most of us.

My journey through motherhood has been turbulent but also brilliant. I am the mother of five children. Five! I blame the Sisters of Mercy for failing to endorse contraception. I’ve grown three boys into men and still have two saplings under my roof. I’ve been a single mum and a partnered mum. Partnered is easier. But I also have fond memories of raising my boys alone. We were a tight unit. A team. I also have bitter, nightmarish memories of that time, when I struggled daily to pay the bills and keep food on the table; when I sat up rocking a sick child to sleep, soaked to the skin with their feverish sweat, alone and frightened.

There was and still is an enormous amount of stigma around single parenting and women cop it worst. A single dad is often seen as something of a hero while a single mum is looked upon as something of a failure. But having sailed the choppy sea myself and having witnessed many strong women bringing up wonderful kids on their own, I know that these parents, doing a double load, are incredibly courageous and inspirational. Champions.

To make ends meet, I cleaned houses, took in ironing and babysat.

But what makes my story a little different is that I was mad as a frickin’ cut snake.

Yep. It took many years for someone to slap a label on me. Bipolar. And let me tell you, juggling a household with small children on a budget made up of found rocks and feathers, with an invisible enemy living inside you like a malicious parasite, is no picnic. I called her Bad Nikki, She’d come to inhabit my body during my teens when she tried to kill me. But she was hot and cold. Not always bad. Sometimes, just mischievous. At times she picked me up on a wave of manic euphoria and sailed me way out to sea while we screamed with laughter, the wind in our hair….and then she’d dump me and leave me to drown. She’d help me write an entire book in two weeks and then stare at me from the mirror and tell me that I was worthless and the very worst mother/person on the planet and that I should jump off the nearest cliff.

But there were also many good times in my roller-coaster life of madness, mayhem and motherhood. The profoundly funny gems of pure joy that came out of my children’s mouths. The Wiggles (I had a massive crush on Greg…you know…when the Wiggles were real Wiggles). The strange and misshapen mother’s day gifts that came home from the school art and craft department. Those moments when you wake up next to your child and they turn to you, all sleep ruffled and tell you that they love you. Child-free girls’ week-ends of champagne and man-watching. Especially those weekends.

But there were yuckier bits. Losing love along the way. Being evicted for being poor. Bank fees for bounced cheques. The electricity being cut off. Eating dry weetbix all weekend….and BAD NIKKI getting in my ear to tell me to end it all. Especially that inner voice.

But I’m still standing. And the kids aren’t completely broken. Fortunately, people are pretty durable and resilient. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger ….and all that.

The book is almost at the first pages stage…..we’re fine-tuning a cover, looking for endorsements from writers that I deeply admire, and I’m just beginning to freak out of my crazy brain about how the book will be received. Will I be strong enough to deal with the haters? Because there are always haters. When you get a one star review for a work of fiction, you can shrug it off. Not everyone likes the same sort of books. But when you get a one star review for a book about YOU, YOURSELF, YOUR VERY SOUL….then it’s pretty hard not to take that personally.

I view writing memoir as a form of ‘therapy’. It flushes out some stories that need to be aired because waving them in the fresh air and sunlight dries them out and stops them from festering into a deep infection of the psyche.

So I’m feeling emotionally refreshed having spilled my guts again…

Can’t wait to hold the book in my hands and sigh….somehow I made it through the wilderness….yeah I made it through.



I haven’t blogged for a while because after years of thinking I was largely invincible, I discovered…that I’m not.

I got kicked in the body by a wicked combo of evil autoimmune diseases that seemingly swept up out of nowhere and started gleefully destroying my joints and my muscles and my joy, to the point that I was unable to walk or function like a human being at all. I tried to write to escape from it all but found that the words all came out in a jumble, and pain punctuated every sentence instead of the usual commas and full-stops and whatnot. And I mostly just wrote swearwords all over the page in angry, fist-held, red pen!

You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

Ain’t that the effing truth. I was a lazy, cranky woman before this thing hit but a hurricane 5 autoimmune flare turned me into a blob of vitriolic bile and misery. Pain makes even the most polite person a raving maniac. Think of those cliched scenes of women in childbirth screaming expletives and generally behaving like Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist. That has been me on a good day for the last couple of months.

‘Get me another f@#*king cup of tea, you bastard who can walk and laugh and do things, you miserable sack of man,’ I would scream at my long-suffering husband from my bed where I lay sweating foul-smelling-pain-perspiration into my scrunched sheets.

It really is a wonder the lot of them, husband and kids and dog, didn’t just sneak out one night and leave me to die in my own cantankerous bubble of agony. Pain killers did nothing but make me constipated. My pain was too hard-core for even Hillbilly Heroin. Nothing but a chainsaw was going to put me out of my misery. (I noticed my husband scanning a brochure for them, God love him).

I got a wheelchair so that I could be pushed up and down the aisles of the supermarket making a spectacle of myself.

‘Faster,’ I would scream at whatever poor servant was pushing the thing. ‘Stop! Back there! No, not that coffee, you completely useless prick-arse. Come back. Don’t leave me in the middle of the aisle…..’

And the housework. Nobody could do anything right and it annoyed me even though I never left the bedroom except to struggle to the shower where I would sit in a plastic chair and wash myself imagining I was a gargoyle in a fountain.

I watched that movie, ‘August Osage County’ and realised that I was fast becoming the Meryl Streep character so I threw a book at the television and determined to stop being so revolting. Pain and sickness make you a self-obsessed monster sometimes. Just look at a man with the flu!

So, to distract myself, I forced myself to write, because it was the only thing that could take me out of my own life, which had turned into a D grade horror movie. So I wrote a whole book in two weeks and I really like it. It’s not completely terrible. It has promise.  A Young Adult book. A little dark (of course). And I read it aloud to my 13 year old son as I completed every chapter and for a little while I forgot the pain and we bonded and the sun started coming out. My son loved the book and loved me reading it to him and I loved reading it to him and we all started to smile again. Awwwww.

And then the doctor put me on a course of steroids that would make a donkey win the Melbourne Cup…that was two days ago and


I am…..in some kind of drugged mania and I can walk (a bit) and feel like I might be a hybrid of Wonder-Woman and Roger Rabbit. And while the potential horrific side-effects that may come raining down on my parade (like glaucoma, diabetes, osteoporosis and psychosis) don’t sound like a picnic, I’ll take the immediate effects and take this opportunity to write this blog and to spring-clean my wardrobe and maybe put all my books in alphabetical order and cook all the food in the house and put it in neatly labelled plastic containers for the freezer. I’ve got this other idea for a book as well…and might start that as well today….and an exercise DVD because I’ve been so sedentary…and…

I’m sorry. I just took a deep breath. I’m okay.

On a more sensible note, I have a new book coming out in July. It is called Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood. Hardly surprisingly, it is a memoir. It is being published by UQP.

I am looking forward to my health stabilizing so that I can enjoy the journey. The manuscript is off to the type-setter and I am awaiting (excitedly) for the early cover-work.

If and when my family come home from school/work this afternoon, I will present them with a sparkling clean house and a big smile and now that I am almost pain-free and mobile, I will apologise for having been a torturous beast to live with for the last (ahum) three months and beg their forgiveness.

If you live with someone who has a serious health condition, please understand that it is their pain and frustration talking and moaning. Inside there is a healthy person just trying to get out. Give them a foot rub.

I feel like I’ve found the escape hatch. For a time, life may go back to some kind of normal. Hahahahaha….as if my life could ever be normal!!!!!

Happy Friday. Have a nice weekend.

Nik x

Exposing the Wolves

I’m angry. Women are angry. Men are angry. The world is angry. The outer crust of humanity is blistering like pork crackling in an oven of sordid stories.

I’m angry but I’m not surprised. Most women aren’t. Men? Many say they are shocked. Appalled. But deep down they are also afraid and this is a global shift in the politics of fear because women have been living in fear for so long it is hammered into our bones. Literally. Now many men are afraid too, of being exposed, with their pants down, but this time publicly.

I have a teenage daughter. I have a teenage son. Trying to explain to my son why Louis C.K is a persona non gratis now because we know he jerks off at cringing women is a tough conversation. He’s a big fan. Was! Discussing the accusations against Ed Westwick, my daughter’s first nuclear crush, from Gossip Girl, is even harder. She and her friends refuse to believe the accusations. This scares me.

So much about the recent revelations scares me. But hopefully not as much as the creeps who have lurked in the shadows, the wolves in the woods, who got away with their treatment of men, women, girls and boys, using the dangerous fusion of power and sex to manipulate those in vulnerable positions for their own perverse entertainment, like dick-wielding gladiators or leering lions circling defenseless slaves in their own private arena. I hope they are shivering in their boots. Terrified of their impending judgment day.

I’m concerned about the reactions from my children. My son was disgusted by his favorite comedian’s behavior, denouncing him instantly as a ‘sad and sick wanker’ but added that ‘at least he isn’t a rapist.’ We then had to discuss sexism as existing upon a spectrum at which cat-calling and locker room talk is on one end and rape on the other. I had to explain that you don’t need to lynch a person of color to be a racist. Making racist jokes or talking behind someones back about race is racist behavior. It’s all bad. I explained to my child that the spectrum is a slippery slope. It’s not just about sex. It’s about power. I think he understands this all better now.

My daughter couldn’t so easily lose her blind adoration for the slick actor who has ironically played a character accused of sexual assault. ‘They’re just accusations,’ she stammered. It is her doe-eyed teenage, innocent reverence for this young man that blinds her to the fact that he ‘could’ be one of the wolves. It is this attitude of reverence for money, fame and prestige that blinkered us all to the extent of the problem.  We don’t want it to be true. ‘Not him. No way.’

And yes, Ed Westwick is still maintaining his innocence as are many other men accused in Hollywood-gate. Weinstein and C.K and (dear god this was a disappointment) Kevin Spacey have admitted their crimes to some degree. I hope that only the most deserving reputations get thrashed in this flood-water of accusations. We must be sensible about this. People coming forward with their stories of long-held shame and degradation and abuse must be listened to because for too long, they’ve worn the heavy armor of it. But it must not become a frenzy because a frenzy fries away reason and responsibility and people stop taking it seriously.

I have stories. Don’t we all? Two property managers, over the years that I was a single mother renting places, sexually harassed me. It felt horrible. The power balance was there and there was little I felt I could do except feel like crap and avoid them or move. A drum teacher. A stranger in a dark place that might have been the end of me.

But I also worked as an actress for a while and there was plenty of flirtatious behavior in the theater and on film sets. But the playful banter never crossed my boundary line. There were plenty of affairs and shenanigans going on in caravans and dressing rooms. It never occurred to me then that some more powerful actors/directors/wolves might take advantage of that climate and target a lamb. I didn’t see it, but in hindsight, I now remember seeing shadows of it, sensing it. One particular actor lured pretty extras into shadowy corners with vague promises of getting a speaking role.

We live in a really messed up world right now. The wrong people seem to be in charge and what we used to accept as polite and acceptable behavior has slid into a festering swamp. Having a world leader on the throne, who has admitted to sexually assaulting women, is unthinkable but it’s a sign of what the world has come to.

Sexism is rampant. It’s everywhere and it has been getting worse and it IS a lifestyle disease. Life is teaching our children that it’s okay to have a president who grabs pussy by the handful without consent because ‘he is powerful’.

Power = do whatever you want to anyone less powerful than you.

But the tide is now turning and I’m glad the boil is finally being lanced (although the gunk that is coming out is pretty rancid). The wolves will find it harder to lure their victims into their hotel rooms, bedrooms or star dressing rooms or grope them and humiliate them at will.

My children are seeing the direct and swift accountability and retaliation after the final expose of these powerful villains (which sadly took many years). They are losing jobs. Film deals. Friends and family. Their entire reputations. And they’re not just in Hollywood, but everywhere.

So for all you creatures who bare your teeth and dare to expose your vile version of sex upon those who aren’t consenting – your time has come. You are now being exposed to the world.

You are now the vulnerable!


Truly, madly, deeply but mostly madly

Fifteen years ago today, I kissed my husband for the first time. It was bold. I’m not sure he saw it coming. In a brief moment of madness, I decided to go for the shock and awe strategy. It worked.

It was a messy, tricky, awkward, jolting, stop-start at the get-go and took a while to get to that place where the word marriage popped up. He proposed to me on bended-knee on his birthday, in the snow, after gallons of Absinthe. I said ‘yes’. I’d never thought I would do it again, having been a staunchly independent single mother for so many years before meeting him. But love is a pie-eyed bolting mustang and when you are in its path, it is very hard not to get mowed down and mangled by it. When I said ‘yes’ to the proposal it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I wanted to kiss this man every day for the rest of my life, even if it was on the cheek, in a text or over the phone.

With the debate about marriage equality raging in my country at the moment and a postal vote about to happen which will ask me to say yes or no to same sex marriage, I feel terrible. Awful. Wrong. Icky. This is not my business. This should not be up to me. I have no right to play this game. When my Zeus asked me to marry him, I cried, I smiled and I said ‘yes’. I didn’t have to ask permission from a stranger, let alone millions of strangers and hope that enough of them said yes and that the powers-that-be then recognised that popular endorsement. This all reminds me uncomfortably of the days of old when peasants had to ask their overlord for permission to marry. Sometimes the overlord even ‘broke-in’ the maiden for her husband in return for his permission. What flipping century are we living in that some people, consenting adults in love, must ask for permission from strangers to be allowed to smile and promise to kiss one another every day for the rest of their lives, in a ceremony sharing that commitment with loved ones?  Why must they ask for permission to live a life of happiness and all the normal ups and downs of marriage? It feels very, very wrong.

When I look at the monstrous hate and vilification of ‘others’ in Charlottesville this week, it reminds me, also uncomfortably, of this postal vote on marriage equality. It’s a fight with the same agenda and I don’t believe a government with the well-being of its people at heart, should conscript us into this debate. There really are no sides. When you are forced, coerced and actively encouraged to take sides in a war that is fuelled by intolerance, everyone loses. A good government works to bring their people, all of them, together. A bad one, divides and encourages division. Australia should be better than that. It’s not compulsory but in this case silence will be taken as an objection. If you don’t vote, it will be a ‘no’ by default.

For the last fifteen years I have been with the man I love. We have watched each other graduate from university, mopped up each other’s vomit, stared into the eyes of our newborn children, travelled on long road-trips and supported one another’s dreams. I never look at the bit of paper we signed to say we were husband and wife but we share the memories of that day at the lighthouse in Ballina with our children. We have photos, a dvd, rings, mementos. We write new vows to one another on our anniversary.

Sometimes we can’t stand one another. He scrapes the fork on his teeth and snores. I am an obsessive compulsive freak who spins out like the exorcist kid if the bin has no liner in it for more than seven seconds. Our family is like a time-travelled proto-type of Malcolm in the Middle but it’s a family that Australia at least recognises as ‘a family’.

Please vote ‘yes’ when you get your bit of paper that gives you similar powers to the raping overlords of old. I don’t agree with the concept. It sucks. But if I can kiss ‘my husband’ and we can share each others names (not that I did) and tick that next of kin box and kiss in public and make cheesy jokes about the ‘old ball and chain’….then everyone in love should be able to.

I truly, madly, deeply believe in marriage equality.

Yes ‘I do.’


SECTION 44 of the Constitution of Australia states that a person holding or entitled to hold citizenship of a foreign power may not sit as a senator or member of the House of Representatives. Sheesh. It’s pretty clear that you need to address that if you want the big politician bucks and perks BEFORE you run for office.  I explained that to my 12 year old and he gets it!

With this citizenship-gate all over the place, from the front of my newspaper to pinging out from every social media feed, I can’t help but draw an uncomfortable parallel to the whole robo-debt Centrelink fiasco. What happens when it transpires that a Centrelink recipient is found to have been paid money they were not technically eligible to receive? Come on? It’s a no-brainer. They have to start paying it back immediately and they have no say in the matter, it just gets quickly and painfully siphoned from their payments. Gone. Before any pending counter-investigation is even launched.

There’s no thumb-twiddling, with payments remaining unchanged and paid, while we wait for a High Court decision about whether or not ‘being ignorant’ is a valid excuse for thinking you were entitled to payments when you weren’t. Average Jane can’t muster the money for any legal defense or for that matter, bread and milk, because the funds are being deducted from her Centrelink payments and/or her working wage almost as soon as the ink has dried on the debt recovery notice. The system runs like a high-speed train hurtling through a dim tunnel. And everyday Australians are hurting from it. These despicable welfare cheats are hammered financially and moaned about in the halls of parliament as being a drain on the public purse.

I’m sorry? Excuse me?

I’m a writer and because I am woefully poor, I enter writing contests a lot. And when I do, there are always these things called TERMS AND CONDITIONS. I can’t go in the Australian Vogel Award because I’m over 35. Not eligible. Others rule me out as I have had three books published. So, it’s not rocket science to know that you have to read the small print to see if you are eligible and if you are, you tick that box and enter the competition and cross your fingers.

This is pretty standard procedure for just about every application process. Getting enrolled in university, applying for jobs, bringing pets into a country (you see what I did there). My point is that life is structured around the rules; i.e terms and conditions. At every bloody turn. And they are about as easy to navigate as boiling an egg. Perhaps easier.

Just because you didn’t read the small print before clicking the box doesn’t make you exempt from the rules. That’s not how it works. Anywhere. In any universe. Using any excuse at all just doesn’t cut it. You will be disqualified.

Politicians, by the very nature of their jobs, deal with legislation. Every day. That’s what we pay them for. We naturally assume that they read the terms and conditions of the job before applying, because that is expected of …human beings applying for jobs. It’s really basic. It’s so basic that the very idea that there could be any excuse for not doing so, beggars belief.

The argument that citizenship of various countries can be tricky and complicated is nonsense. I was born in Australia. My parents and all my grandparents were born in Australia. I’m fairly certain there’s no sneaky Italian citizenship lurking in the shadows but if I was going to claim hundreds and hundreds of thousands from the public purse, I would be checking out the great-grandparents just to be certain. It’s not hard to check!

If you or one of your parents was born overseas, it would be brain-numbingly obvious that there was a possibility of dual citizenship. If you claimed ignorance of that fact, as an educated grown up, you would be admitting that you were outrageously NAIVE. And naiveté is not a defense. Not when filling in a competition entry form and not when putting your hand up for a job in our Australian Government as a representative of the people and not in the High Court of this country.

If the Deputy Prime Minister of my country thinks that because he didn’t go online and check in three or four easy finger-clicks whether there was a possibility that he was a kiwi as well as a kangaroo, then he isn’t entitled to the job. Frankly, I wouldn’t employ him to boil an egg.

So if the High Court rules that ignorance and naiveté or just plain disinterest in reading the terms and conditions of the Constitution, is a good enough excuse to allow hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public purse to be paid to politicians who are technically and constitutionally ineligible for the job, then it must also be accepted as an excuse for those Centrelink debtors who misunderstood their own eligibility for money from the same source. Everyone pays back the debts or no-one. Because we live in a land that promotes equality, don’t we? Oh….that’s right.

The Great Divide

”I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

That quote has been attributed to many people from Mae West to Gertrude Stein. It sounds like a no-brainer. Of course it’s better to be rich than poor. I’ve been dirt poor and I’ve been…..um…less dirt poor.

I have yet to experience what it is to be RICH in a financial sense. What the hell is the bench mark here, anyway? What is the test you must pass to be considered rich or poor? I’ve been hungry-poor, no-roof-over-my-head-poor but the closest I’ve come to being rich is getting a facial at a fancy beauty salon and slapping some Chanel No. 5 behind my ears. Both gifted to me. I am what could be considered comfortable and yet the foundations are shaky enough to warrant vigilance.

Last week I decided to go Gonzo journalist and give the extremes a good going-over. I signed up for the CEO Sleep-out for Vinnies, an annual event to spotlight awareness on homelessness. I had been invited to tell my story to the participants, as part of the presentation preceding a night of sleeping rough on the wintry city streets. I have slept in a tent with my children and bathed them in a bucket of kettle-warmed water. I’ve lined up for food parcels from Vinnie’s in the deep, dark past and it was my time to give back and say ”thank-you, I couldn’t have made it without you.”

Melbourne in winter is COLD. It is miserably cold. It is London-grey and squally. I grew up on the sunshiny Gold Coast. I don’t like bluster and frigidity. I also like my queen-sized, focaccia-like mattress and duck-down doona. I’ve done my time in the trenches of discomfort and starvation and now I’m running madly toward being rich … although it mostly feels like I’m on a comical treadmill.

I want to be rich but I chose to be a writer???? Cue clown squeezing a bicycle-horn.

So…I decided to do decadent ‘rich’ for a day, followed by desolate ‘poverty’ for a day. This would take place in the city of Melbourne.

Melbourne, like most cities, it is a place, a space, where designer shoes click past grimy, bare feet matted with chilblains, on most sidewalks. A woman in a camel-coloured mohair overcoat can blithely walk by a woman in a shop alcove, lying rolled up in a scabies-infested sleeping bag sans zipper. These people all share a post-code, human DNA and dreams, regrets, sorrows and passions. Too often we stride through our days automatically assuming a great cultural divide between these extremes. It isn’t necessarily something we spend time thinking about. We just don’t really identify with either – the one percenters in the mohair, or the derros in the mountain of scabby debris.

Day 1.

I sit in the Qantas lounge sipping my almond-milk latte and spoon my tasty quinoa and roasted veggie soup into my gullet as I watch planes coasting along the runway. I flick through a magazine, looking at the beautiful, skeletal people taunting me and decide to read a book, one without pictures. The flight to Melbourne from Sydney is comfortable and I quickly sweep myself into a waiting taxi to take me to my inner-city digs for the night – The Windsor – an historic pile of bricks that has put up the likes of Harry Houdini, Meryl Streep and that guy who plays Harry Potter not to mention various Prime Ministers and Princes.

A man in a top hat and tails who looks like a medieval town-crier opens the taxi door and takes my bags, ushering me into the warm embrace of the chandeliered foyer that smells like a wad of money and aged oak. My room is smug and confident, the linen sharp, the leather chair in the corner begging me to sit down for a fat cigar. Of course there is no smoking in the rooms and cigars taste like dried corpse so I settle for a glass of champagne instead. I cruise the net on my smart-phone, kick off my shoes, order in a take-away curry, flick on the television and crawl between the sheets. The champagne goes down nicely. The curry challenges my taste-buds and the bed feels cosy. Before sleep, I soak in a bath surrounded by wafts of minted green tea bubbles and walls of shimmering marble. I sleep well in the bed that may or may not have embraced Ellie Goulding and Kylie Minogue but presumably not at the same time!

The next day, I partake of really, really good coffee, sourdough toast, marmalade and an enormous goat-cheese omelette with a side of creamed rice, rhubarb and pistachio nuts. Classical music plays softly, crystal and silver-ware tinkle, and the spires of a church glower in at me through the dining room window.

I wander the streets of the city, passing countless homeless people. I stop sharing coins after the fourth because there are just so many. I sit in a cafe and have another famous Melbourne coffee while listening to street jazz. I window shop. I wander over the river, taking touristy pics. I meet up with two of my fabulously talented and interesting author-friends over lunch at a snazzy eatery. I chow down on a burger but it isn’t your run-of-the-mill McPatty. It’s Angus beef with caramelized beetroot or some such, with wilted flowers of the heart of a still-beating zucchini here and there. One friend signs her novel for my daughter. The other takes me to the art gallery and we stride about for a while admiring the ART DARLING and giggle at the sillier twaddle that calls itself ART but is really just stuff arranged somewhat interestingly.

VERDICT: ”Rich” is very, very comfortable and tastes good.  ( I wonder if Meryl Steep slept in the same bed as me. I decide ‘probably’. I take it as a good omen that I will one day win an Academy Award or seven.)

DAY 2.

I walk through the city streets with my heavy bag over my arthritic shoulder and finally turn up for a shift on the soup van run. I am given a visibility vest in chic fluorescent orange with velcro tabs. I meet a varied group of people who have spent hours donating their time to stock the vans with sandwiches, make huge vats of veggie soup, fill the hot chocolate and tea containers and pile sleeping bags, sanitary products, beanies and scarves into the trucks.

I’ve always thought of ‘volunteers’ as kind-hearted, retired people. That night I meet ex-school principals, a PhD student, a budding psychologist, ex-homeless people, young uni kids, mums, dads and everything in between. There is no stereotypical ‘volunteer’.

We hit the streets.

It is cold. Dark. The city is closed except for those who live in her shadows. They come out to meet the vans and stay for soup and conversation. I meet another varied group of people and I learn pretty fast that there is no stereotypical ‘homeless person’ either. I meet a man who spends his days in the city libraries reading everything that interests him. He was once an engineer and gives me a book tip. It’s a good one I plan to follow up and put on my TBR list. I meet a woman who has turned her life around in less than a year from struggling beneath a meth habit to being excited about her first pay-cheque. One man has a toothache so bad he is hitting his head on a wall, another man tells me things I did not know about the chemical make-up of air fresheners. I meet people who are living in crisis centres, boarding houses, community apartments and cardboard boxes on the street. Some have children, some have dogs, some are all alone.

I have a Styrofoam cup of street soup and you know what? It’s better than the one I had the day before in the Qantas terminal. It’s good. Very good. I laugh with the people I meet who seem to be much quicker to share a smile and a joke than most of the army of designer suits I passed on the street during daylight hours. There is the pervading perfume of mental illness but it isn’t as scary as I had feared. It is sad.

There is the problem of housing, for sure. Rents have become inaccessible to so many. But I talked with a team leader on the soup van run and he explained that the roof-over-the-head is just the tip of the iceberg in tackling this problem. A holistic approach is needed which addresses the individual needs – mental, physical, cultural, emotional, social, spiritual. The problem is that the funding just isn’t there. The problem is huge. The solution is complicated. The amount of interest in really getting things addressed is minimal and thus it falls to charities like Vinnies to muster what they can, to give help on the ground, where it is needed critically RIGHT NOW!

And then I turn up to the underground car-park at the Melbourne University for the Sleep-out. The place was the setting for a scene in the movie Mad Max and it does have an apocalyptic atmosphere; a subterranean concrete cavern with pulses of eerie light the colour of developing bruises.

Moving, gut-wrenchingly-moving speeches are delivered from key members of the Vinnies community and by the time I have to speak I am choked with emotion. I tell my story. It seems so insignificant in the face of the problems I have seen that night. My story is ancient history. I survived. I am now back in the seat of privilege. I stayed at The Windsor the night before…in Meryl Streep’s bed!

I eat soup again, without a price tag this time. I drink industrial-strength coffee. I am given a standard-issue sleeping bag and a pillow that does little to cushion my head from the concrete beneath. My mattress is a sheet of brown cardboard. I sleep in this bunker with 240 others, all trying to raise money, to do their little bit, to spend a night out of their comfort zones. It is cold and it is uncomfortable but nothing can prepare me for ….THE SNORING! Imagine many, many people snoring like hippopotamii with sinus problems…in a subterranean cavern with killer acoustics. It is a philharmonic symphony of epiglottal horror. THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

I suffer from Lupus. I ache all over. I am asthmatic. I am no spring chicken. I cope with the cold and concrete. But the snoring nearly kills me. Not one moment of sleep is had. To get me through the long horrible, torturous night, I focus on something one of the homeless women told me. She said it was safer to stay with the others in the light than to skulk off to the privacy of the shadows where bad things happen. So many women on the streets are assaulted. They feel safer under the streetlights with all the others, with the snores and groans and warmth of bodies. I spend the night fighting the urge to skulk into a far-flung dark corner of the car-park to get some quiet, private moments of sleep but in the real world, on the real streets, that is never a good idea. And so I lie, inwardly screaming for those motherf@#$&ing snorers to choke on their own tongues while I imagine rolling about in the sheets at the Windsor, playing with bubbles in the marble bath. I am dying a slow death-by-snore-torture in the dare-I-say-it Thunderdome!!!

It is hell. I have to use a porta-loo. Jeebus. In The Windsor you have people in starched uniforms cleaning your shit-stains off the porcelain bowl. I can only cringe at the thought of how women on the street manage. It is really unthinkable.

I go straight to the airport the next morning, shell-shocked. I smell bad. I look even worse and I am too embarrassed to ask for my flight to be changed to an earlier one because I know that I look like someone who has spent the night on some kind of debauched hen’s night pub crawl and I am afraid I’ll be judged or strip-searched.

And I guess in those long hours of waiting, I kind of understand why it is so hard to access any self-esteem after a night of sleeping rough. You feel like absolute crap.

Sure, being rich is better. There’s no doubt about it. But the crystal chandelier existence really is lacking something and that is 20/20 vision. It’s easy to walk the streets in good shoes and coats (something Melbourne is famous for) and feel a glimmer of displeasure at the homeless unwashed because THEY make you feel bad, begrudgingly guilty and you resent that, so you narrow your eyes or look away and try to think about something else.

The CEO Sleep-out is just one night where the ‘haves’ do it rough. It won’t change the world. It will raise some well-needed funds but it makes me ill to see politicians turn up to this event in cities around the country and don sleeping bags and smiles for the newspapers and then go straight back to cutting funding where it is needed most.

We were not faced with the dangers that many homeless confront. We had security. We had sleeping bags and shelter. Many don’t. We knew it was just for one night. There was light at the end of our little, snoring Mad Max tunnel. For many there is just relentless darkness.

It was a humbling experience for me… dare I say it… life-changing.

I have been reassessing priorities and examining myself and my life-view through a clearer, sharper and more discomforting lens.

We all need to do more. The first step is to open our eyes.