DADADADA….(that was supposed to be a drum roll). My new book, a memoir, is out on July 2nd 2018. ‘Madness, Mayhem and Madness’ wanders through my years of struggle as a single mother suffering from extreme poverty, mental illness and general hopelessness but it’s also really funny so go figure! Perhaps it should have been called Madness, Mayhem, motherhood and Mirth….hmmmm too long. Things sound better in threes. I’ve just finished writing a novel and called it Seven Sins of Summer so I’m obviously running with that alliterative triad.
To be honest, I started writing this book many years ago. I even gave it to my agent who liked it in its early form (which was much more raunchy and more about the mayhem than the motherhood or madness) but I got cold feet and shoved it in the proverbial bottom drawer (which is really my documents file which is chockers with the dead bodies of novels, memoirs and short stories that have passed on). It’s starting to stink so I should probably start deleting some of them. I chickened out of pursuing publication because it’s difficult terrain to traverse again. There were regrets. Guilt. Shame. The book summoned lots of demons and they weren’t particularly nice to me.
But then, I started writing for the dear departed Hoopla under the guidance of Wendy Harmer and I started prising open that Pandora’s Box of memories of being poor, ashamed and terrified as a young woman struggling to bring up little boys on her own while trying to stop from falling apart. When I read the morning papers and saw what the government was constantly doing to the battlers, it made me mad. I started kneading the scar tissue, loosening it up and it suddenly didn’t feel too painful to be talking about the wounds that being so poor had etched into my psyche and I wrote some politically-charged pieces in response to things like cuts to the single-parent pension and the discontinuation of the school bonuses for low-income families etc. I heard from people who were doing it as tough as I once had and I felt their pain.
And I realised that we all need to hear stories about the reality of living in poverty, struggling to pay the rent, trying to feed the kids and put school shoes on their little feet. There aren’t many books about the raw fight and that may be because the people who do survive don’t really want to go back over that because of the post-traumatic-stress that comes with the memories, or because they were ashamed of their past. Those in the thick of it are unlikely to be able to navigate their way to a book deal. Many wouldn’t want to.
I was always writing back in those days, journals and journals, years of them, and I dreamed of being a published author but it seemed a far-away, if not impossible, dream. But I did it. I wrote the book. And now it’s going to hit bookshelves across Australia. This is very, very exciting. And an emotional time too because I do hope my story brings hope to those needing hope. I wrote it for myself as closure. But also to shine a light on how hard it is for so many people who find themselves in a similar situation. My story is not unique (except maybe the bits about me being from another planet, the occasional one-night stand with a rock-star (yeah, yeah, you can’t take the groupie out of the girl or something) and the eating chicken out of a billionaire’s bin…..
No. My story is the story of hundreds of thousands of people who live pay-cheque to pay-cheque, week to week, living with the stress that comes with the knowledge that they are only ever one or two weeks away from eviction from their rental property. And then there’s the bi-polar, the icing on the cake. Poverty and mental illness are regular bed-fellows and it’s hard sometimes to figure out which one is the chicken and which one is the egg.
I’m looking forward to holding the book in my hand because I know it will make me cry and I wish I could take a snapshot and send it back to that young woman who had to line up for Christmas presents from charities for her kids. It all worked out in the end and she turned those experiences into a book and that’s really something. You did it Nik. Congratulations. Thank-you.
Here is some early feedback from some lovely people who I admire enormously for their own courageous writing and who have given me hope, in one way or another, at various times in my life.
“Nikki’s voice is one that’s not often heard. Raw, unfiltered, honest, this is the story of a mother who, through sheer guts and determination, took up arms against poverty, mental illness and hopelessness in pursuit of a ‘Happy Ever After’. And that’s just the first bit…’ Wendy Harmer
“If you’ve ever felt like you weren’t a good enough parent, partner or person, Nikki McWatters is the most important companion, reminding us all -with rich insight and without sentimentality – that to be flawed is to be richly and captivatingly, human.’ Benjamin Law.
“Nikki McWatters recalls the hustle and the heartbreak of being a single mum on a shoestring. She takes us on the epic highs and lows of becoming your kids’ best friend and your own worst enemy. Hot-blooded and quick-witted, this book whips the breath from your lungs.’ Jenny Valentish.
“An honest voice which brilliantly tells the story of a woman who gets knocked down but gets up again. Over and over again. Nikki McWatters proves that love can overcome even the most unbelievable tragedies. Compellingly, beautifully written and a complete page-turner.’ Mrs Woog.
Please all go and buy it or preorder it or get it out of the library so that I can feed the kids, eh? July 2nd. Put it on the calendar. I have!