I am a writer?

I am trying to find the words, which should come easy to someone like me. Supposedly. The girl at the hairdresser asked me if I was a writer and I replied, I suppose, kind of. Which was an inelegant way of saying, I write but I don’t know if I can call myself a writer. And after a weekend of watching authors take the stage at Melbourne Writers Festival with their big ideas and opinions and quotes from this philosopher or that, I am no closer to feeling like a writer. But I know I write. 

Do you want to hear something embarrassing? Of course you do. Who am I kidding? I still have to stop and think: what is a verb? What is a noun? It doesn’t come easy. The grammar. As you can tell. The other day someone at work asked me, how are you doing? I said, good. My colleague corrected me. Well, she said, you are well. This only happened last week but it shot me back – boom – to working the checkout as a 17 year old and the better spoken people who dared travel down the hill to shop at our shitty shopping centre correcting me. I’d laugh it off. Apologise. I was a very good employee. Got lots of those comment cards about how nice I was at the checkout. Even got a little, plastic trophy for it at some dinner thing I had to go to with the store manager. Someone else won a holiday that night. I won a trophy. For ignoring arseholes and keeping a smile on my face. For making them feel important and special as they put me down to lift themselves up and then send in a nice comment card about how smiley and lovely I was. If only they knew. 

When someone says they’re good we know what that means. We can agree on that meaning. We get it. But instead of explaining how language and meaning changes, how good can stand in for ‘well’ or ‘fine’ (is that allowed?), I apologised and corrected myself. Well, I mumbled and sort of laughed, sorry, I am well. I didn’t want her to feel embarrassed for correcting me. I am good at ignoring arseholes and keeping the smile on my face. 

Anyway, the difference between good and well isn’t grammar is it? (That’s rhetorical. Please don’t explain it to me.)

I don’t know why I even brought it up. 

It’s just that these things that haunt you. Like laying awake at night and remembering the time I said, Jess and me instead of Jess and I. I. I. I. I know how it works. When to use me and when to use I. But sometimes I get it wrong. 

I know how it works. That it is should have not should of. But sometimes it slips out wrong. And I hear myself and shudder. Or someone I have long admired corrects me on it. In the middle of a nice night out surrounded by people. They correct me. A disappointed look on their face. And I think, shit, what do they think of me? Is the real me showing? The one who didn’t learn about nouns and verbs until much later than she should HAVE and still can’t confidently tell you, off the stop of her head, for fear she will be wrong, and who doesn’t know all the rules of grammar, and is a terrible speller and mispronounces a lot of words like who the hell decided you should say hyperbole like that anyway? 

I know how it works. 

I remember a literary manager who said he was used to working with the bright young things who studied law at Melbourne Uni and not people like me. People like me. People like me. We don’t talk about that. People like me who came from postcodes and places that don’t produce the bright young lawyers and their ilk who rule this world. No. 

I remember another who told me not to admit my age because it made less impressive.

We don’t talk about that.

This is not to complain. But it might explain. Why I find it so hard to say, yes, hi, I am a writer and I am good – good as in well and also a good writer – even if I don’t know the rules. 

It may explain why I find it hard to talk about my latest book. What is it about. The process. Why I’m finding it so difficult to write the speech for the launch. The update for this blog. The pitch to publications about who gets to be an artist and class and the arts. The proposal for the next book. 

But I do have a book. A second book. Published. In bookstores right now. My name on the cover, but a whole team of people who made it happen. People who listened and advised and edited and gave feedback and options and ideas and patience and support and talent and believed in me as a writer. An actual writer. 

Triple Threat touches on some of those feelings – those feelings that you’re not good enough / smart enough / rich enough / connected enough to take up the same space as those who, by happy accident, were born into a family or situation which allows them to be – or try to be – an artist or actor or writer or musician. And that’s not to say those with the connections / money / smarts don’t also feel that way. But it is different. There is an opportunity, an entitlement, that they have the right to at least try it, if they want to. No harm, no foul. Is that how that saying goes? 

Being an artist isn’t particularly easy for anyone in this country. It isn’t valued. Isn’t invested in. Some look at as some sort of self-indulgent hobby for egomaniacs, not a real job – those same people who relied on to get through the relentless sadness of lockdowns. No a real job. And so, when you grow up in an environment where you really need that real job, where there is less time to play or figure yourself out and what the hell is a gap year and who the hell is having one, then the arts look like a frivolous dream. A playground for the rich and connected. But wouldn’t be nice if all kids had the chance to have frivolous dreams? And to explore those dreams. To really make an attempt to be an actor or a musician or a sculpture just because they could. Even if they ended up being no good at it … no harm, no foul.

It took me a long time to start focusing on writing. Hence, I was older and less impressive than the lit manager thought I was. I wasn’t the bright young thing who studied Law because we were actively discouraged from even trying to attend the best universities – it wasn’t worth our time, our school never did very well in those exams which line you 99.9 to 0 and then squashes you to fit.

But I am writing now. And my second book has been published. And I will try to start calling myself a writer. Because if not now … when?

PS. Triple Threat is out now!

a messy blog

This blog is a mess. There should be a through-line. A clear and consistent message. A brand. (Shudder.) A sense of purpose and audience and … meaning? It should be a lot neater than it is. And updated more regularly. But it is not.

And I have not.

Have not been consistent. Or clear.

Or updated as regularly as I should have been.

I don’t know how this is all supposed to work.

Which isn’t to say it doesn’t work. I mean, someone, somewhere is reading this. I think. (Hi, Mum.)

I am about to have my second book published. I realised I don’t think I ever mentioned the first one on this blog which is ridiculous, don’t you think, for a writer not to mention their writing because, well, that’s what I’m here for. For writing. And sharing that writing. But nope. I wrote a book and didn’t blog about it because, possibly, someone said blogs are so cringe now and no one blogs anymore so then I felt the cringe and ashamed of this little blog … And I just have to stop, stop, stop doing that. It’s like not wearing your hair in a side-part because we’re not supposed to do the side-part anymore but who the hell actually cares if you do the side-part? If it suits you, or even if it doesn’t, if you like the side-part, if you feel good with the side-part then do the damn side-part. I mean, you’re probably ‘allowed’ to do it again now anyway because some former-Disney-channel-starlet-turned-mega-star started doing it. But, regardless, these rules don’t apply when you get to certain age and I am most definitely of a certain age even though I try to kid myself into thinking I am not my knees are telling me a different story and that’s fine, that’s fine, that’s fine (no, reader, Mum, it isn’t fine at all).

All this is to say …

I am getting back into it … The Blog. The Messy Blog. Possibly. Maybe. I will at least try …

Thank you for sticking around. Or not. No pressure.

a handful of thoughts


It’s the second wave of Disney’s golden age which is a term I’ve just made up and know isn’t quite right but I know you know what I mean. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas … The Disney Renaissance. That’s what it is called. I looked it up. But it doesn’t matter. You get the the idea. The 90s. The animated women have tiny, impossible waists. Unless they’re the baddies. I look and look and look at Ariel.


In Grade 7, a well-meaning teachers gushes about how lovely I look. I haven’t eaten lunch in a fortnight. Only apples. And only now and then.


The boy I sit next to in class hits me and pinches me and says I have ‘big boobs’ and when I finally breakdown and tell the teacher she wants to know what I did to provoke him. She tells me he likes me. I am eleven.


He pushes me against the wall and says he’s my husband and he has needs.


At the pop-up sale the assistant looks relieved and says, finally someone who can actually fit into sample sizes. And we giggle over people trying on clothes that are never going to fit them.


I don’t like to take up too much room. Others don’t seem to care or even think about it. Does that make them more or less self-centred? You leave a little space and someone will quickly fill it. Like gas. Expanding to fill the container. On the tram I jam myself into tight corners and disappear under other people’s jackets and hold my breath.


Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.


I haven’t done any permanent damage. I’ve never been on the ward. I haven’t been committed enough. Tried hard enough. I even get that wrong.


He would sleep in and barely work and I wasn’t allowed to talk to him before he’d had that bitter instant coffee he had a particular way of making which didn’t make it taste any better but who was I to say anything? He screamed in my face. Watched me hit myself over and over. Forgot my birthday. Called me crazy and selfish. Questioned everything I said and anyone I saw until I almost stopped saying and seeing. He didn’t let me play Jack Johnson in the house and so I’d wait til I was alone to play his songs and pretend I was in Hawaii.



I accidentally sent the tourists in the wrong direction but I was so happy they thought I was from here that I didn’t say anything.


I was in love with the smart boy but dated the jock. I was almost sixteen.


He threw a screwdriver at my head and punched a hole in the door and hurt my body and my mind and one day I saw his dad try to punch him and he ran right through the fly-screen and we sprinted from the house in the middle of the night down and I wanted to go home and to my own bed but I didn’t and I don’t know why.


I have stomach aches. All the time. They do tests. No permanent damage. I am disappointed.


They tell me he makes a lot of money. For the company. They tell me not to rock the boat. He takes paid leave. He gets a promotion. He speaks over my head, he speaks to the people around me, he never says sorry, he never acknowledges …  I sit at my desk and shrink every time I feel him storming the corridors.


“You get fatter and fatter every time I see you,” he said. A theatre director who had been someone once.


A man in his twenties sends a girl in her a teens books and letters. A man in his twenties lies about having sex with a girl in her teens. The girl’s father hears the lies and shouts at the girl. She tries to explain but he doesn’t care. People are talking. Whispering. Saying things about the girl. And he is embarrassed.


I get on the train. It’s almost 10pm. But I leave the house – my house, our house? – and I get on the train and I go because I need to. Have to. Must. And it’s the first time I’ve left but maybe not the first time I should have left. If that makes sense? And I cry. On the train. Because I am sad. And because, for the first time in a long time, I have somewhere to go and someone who will be standing on the platform waiting for me.


The Inexplicable

Many years ago, before I’d turned my back on teaching for the first but not the last time, a student of mine was murdered. She was a beautiful person. I can say that because it was true.

I was teaching an all female Drama class. It hadn’t been planned, it just worked out that way because the boys had all chosen something else, I suppose. The were extraordinary young women and I was their teacher. A young woman myself.

One day, she didn’t turn up which was unlike her. One day, the rumours were flying that someone had been killed. One day, one of the girls said, I think it’s her, miss, and I said, no, no, it’s not. One day, the school psychologist came to my classroom door and took me to the conference room and told me yes, yes, it is.

We journeyed and negotiated through the grief process together. A bunch of 17-to-18 year olds and their not-quite-24 year old teacher.

I knew nothing of that kind of grief.

We would make Milo together and eat Tim-Tams because some professional development I’d attended once suggested all teachers keep a packet of Tim-Tams in their office for student emergencies. This was so much more than an emergency. I’d say, let’s take class outside today, and we’d sit in the sunshine and someone would cry and we would forget about the lesson plan for that day.

I don’t know how her family got through it. I don’t know how her friends got through it. I assume they haven’t. It’s not the sort of thing you just get through. I was too young and too inexperienced to approach the family, to knock on their door and offer them a Tim-Tam. I wish I had. But I did what I could with the young people I was responsible for. My drama class.

And then, years later, a man turns up in my inbox. He is writing a book about it and would I be willing to be interviewed. He needed different perspectives, stories, things his careful research wouldn’t uncover. He had her parents’ blessing and trust and he was a respected journalist. He was good at what he did. I Googled. He was. Would I agree? To be interviewed? I said yes. I don’t know why.

And we meet at the coffee shop and he wants to record it and he does. And I cry and say sorry a lot because I shouldn’t be crying. I have no right to cry. Not after all these years. Do I? I don’t think I ask him that but I think it. I offer stories and details, those seemingly unimportant things I remember and probably never got to tell anyone. People get bored of other’s grief pretty quickly. They don’t care for anecdotes. Silly little details you remember and want to share and hold on to. During the funeral, one of my students reached out and held onto my hand. She squeezed my hand tight and cried and we walked up to put a rose on the coffin together. She is a teacher now.

I talk with the man, the stranger, the respected journo, for hours.

He pays for the coffees.

He says, do you want to mentioned by name and I think, no, no, no, this isn’t my story. This isn’t about me. But I say, let me think about it and he says that is fine. He says he will send me the pages and I can see how I feel about it. About my name being in his book. He says he’ll check in with me first and I believe him.

Only he doesn’t.

He emails and says, the book is done, I’ll invite you to the launch.

Only he doesn’t.

And then people I barely know message me on Facebook. Some write on my wall: is that you? Are you the Katy Warner, the Drama Teacher, in the book? Thumbs up. Like.

What the hell is going on?

I email the respected journalist turned author and, with respect, I say what the hell?

He replies, I’ll send you PDF copy.

Only he doesn’t.

And he still doesn’t.

And he still doesn’t.

And he Tweets, today, with a gif of a cat high-fiving a human, that his book is a top five, non-fiction pick of all time for someone who must be a Someone. And I think: a GIF? Really? A cat gif? Really?

And I think how difficult it is to write a book.

And how much more difficult it would be to write a book about someone who lived and breathed and was loved and was taken from us too soon, too tragically, too violently, too inexplicably.

And I think about emailing him, again. I think about Tweeting him in 140 biting characters. I think about why I agreed to the interview in the first place. I think about that drama class and how they’re all about to turn thirty. I think how this isn’t about me. Or him. Or launches or top-five lists or cat gifs.

I don’t know what it is about.

But it still makes me cry.


something stupid

I did something stupid last night.

That’s what I told them at work today. I did something stupid.

This is what I did.

I got in a taxi cab. It was nearly midnight. I had just gotten off the plane and I hurried out of the terminal with my cabin-bag and no checked baggage because I’d travelled light. As you do on flights of a certain nature. The taxi rank was clear and the man in the fluro vest radioed for a taxi and joked about the cold weather and held the door open for me so I could get in.

None of this was stupid. This was okay.

I told the taxi driver my address and asked him to take a certain route because I’d been tricked into going the long way once or twice before and was determined it would not happen again. I was tired. I had limited funds. I wanted to get home to my bed.

This is reasonable.

The taxi driver said okay okay yes yes sure but you’ll have to direct me. I was tired. I said I can try but don’t you have a … and he said yes yes okay okay sure I do, I can do that. And plugged my address into the maps app whilst we drove out of the airport, his mobile phone glowing from his lap.

This was the beginning of the stupid thing.

He wanted to know who I lived with and did I have a boyfriend? I said yes, I have a partner and a cat because I thought the cat consolidated it. The cat created an image of familiar, long-term relationship and he should just back off and stop talking. But he didn’t. He said, am I too late then? Too late for you? Have a missed my chance? You are a pretty girl. And I said, yes, you are too late and I should have said more but I was sitting in the back of his cab and it was midnight and I was tired.

That was stupid.

This was even more stupid.

He asked if I used taxis much. I don’t. But the last time I told a taxi driver I used Uber I feared for my life so I said, I suppose, sometimes. He said, okay okay, great great – I’ll give you my number so you can just call me direct. You can just text me, he said, and I’ll get you. Any time. Anywhere. Even if I’m not working, I have my own car, I have a Ford Falcon and I can drive you anywhere. You and your friends. If you’re at a party you call me.

And I took the number because it was easier. I thought. Until he wanted me to text him so he had my number. He said he wanted to make sure I had the right number. He said he wanted my number so he knew who needed the taxi. I was sitting in the back of his taxi at midnight and I should have said no way, you’re not getting my number. But I didn’t. I sent the text.

He said we were friends.

I should have said no, we’re not.

But I didn’t say anything.

That was stupid.

Then he wanted to know if girls like men who sing and dance and I said I suppose when, really, I should have said I am tired, please just drive me home. He then sang which I thought was funny and something I could write into a short story or book and I clapped a little to make him stop for it was really quite terrible but he kept going even when he couldn’t remember the words. He didn’t know when to stop. It went on and he kept checking my reaction in his rear-view mirror.

Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you, that is how I know you … go on … 

There was a story about a couple kissing in the back of his cab and his high school crush and what is the definition of crush and perhaps he should go to university to meet girls.

I listened and smiled and laughed in the right places. But I didn’t want to.

When we finally arrived I paid him and got out as quickly as I could. He got out too. He demanded we get a selfie. We have to get a selfie he kept saying and ran around from his side of the cab to mine, blocking my path. I said no, I am tired. I said no, I’ve just got off a plane. I said no, I don’t want to. But he put his arm around me and pulled me in and held his phone up high and took a photo but he didn’t like that one and he shoved the phone in my hand and said you do it and he tried to position himself behind me, as if we were a couple standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or something. I said no, I don’t know how and he did it himself. I saw the photo. I am smiling. That is stupid. Then he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek and I scrambled up to my front door without looking back and felt so very stupid.


The kid who hates me or: Attempts at being a good teacher.

Lockers at school by Brett Levin

Image via Flickr – Lockers at school by Brett Levin

There’s this kid who hates me. I know because he tells me. Not directly. He mutters it. Under his breath. Rolling his eyes. Whispering to his friends. As he leaves the classroom and I stand by the door to say bye and thank you and good class today and I look forward to seeing you next week and you were great because that’s some tip I picked up somewhere. Welcomes and goodbyes. At the classroom door. They’re important. Teachers should do that. As much as they may prefer to be checking their emails or reading the news online. It helps. Helps build relationships and rapport and minimise behavioural issues.

He hates me. He hates Drama class.

And that’s OK.

See you next week, you were great today, thanks so much.

I tell him it’s OK to hate Drama class. I tell them all you don’t have to like it, you just have to try. I sound like a parent trying to make their kid eat broccoli. I say, I hated Drama, too, when I was your age which is not entirely true nor is it entirely false. Sometimes I hated it. When you had to be hilarious in improvisation games. I was thirteen. We were awkward. Boys would always do these scenes where they would act as if they were in labour. That was funny. Boys would pretend to be girls. That was funny. Boys would impersonate funny characters from movies or TV. That was funny. I’d put on a bad Russian accent and no one would laugh. We were thirteen.

I say to my class, as whole, to all of them, never singling anyone out, that it’s OK not to like Drama. Just give it a go. Try. It’s like broccoli. Some people like it, some people don’t but you don’t know until you try it. Plus, you should eat it, anyway, because it’s good for you. See? Drama and broccoli. I was losing them … and myself … And then, the kid who hates me complains loudly that the only reason anyone is listening to me is because I am an adult and it’s not fair that kids have to listen to adults, why should they listen to me, just cos I’m old and they’re young and it’s not fair because no one ever listens to him. No one. Ever. I listened and said, I’m listening but that just got his eyes rolling and I bit my tongue because I didn’t want to say the things I think my parents would have said all those decades ago when I probably said the exact same thing. Because we all say those things when we’re kids. Don’t we?

I wanted to say; Malala is a kid but adults listen to her because she actually has something to say. I wanted to say; Do you actually have something to say? I wanted to say; Say it. I wanted to say; Tell us something, go on, talk, talk, talk.

But I don’t.

I do say, yes, I know, it is hard being a kid sometimes but I don’t say “it sucks” because kids don’t say that so much anymore. I also don’t say “dude” after one kid commented on how sad it is when old people try to sound young and cool by using their words. I looked around but he was referring to me. I wanted to say, dude, dude is not your word, it’s not my word either but we were pretending to be a surfers in our little primary school in the middle of the bush before you were even born. But I didn’t. Instead I asked him, very politely, not to be so rude … dude …

Kids put their hands up and I say, do you have a question and they say, no, I have a comment.

Sometimes I say “shivers” because I sometimes nearly say the other word. You stub your toe, you hit your shin, your computer just closes down in the middle of a presentation, the kids just won’t shut up. Sometimes it is hard not to swear.

The kid who hates me doesn’t get it. He has decided: I am the enemy.

I tell the whole class (because I’d never embarrass or single anyone out) that Drama can be confronting, at times, but I’d never, ever make any of them do anything they made them feel anxious or too nervous or sick or whatever. I wouldn’t. I was the kid who’d get butterflies and a dry mouth and panic as the teacher got ever closer to my name on the roll and I knew I’d have to say here or yes or present or something in front of the whole class and how would I do that and what sort of voice would I use and how would I arrange my face … I don’t tell my class that. They don’t need to know that. But I do understand.

I explain that nervous is good. Nervous means you care. I explain that we only have three rules in this class: Be Kind. Listen. Try. I wish I’d had this class when I was at school. One of the kids who doesn’t hate me says that it seems like Drama class is all about feeling comfortable and I liked that. Another kid says I am like pretty much the nicest teacher at this school and I say can I have that in writing and he raises his eyebrows and says he doesn’t get it. Another says he is busting to go to the toilet and can he go and when I say yes he says he knew I’d say yes because I’m understanding. The kid who hates me says something about rape being funny.

I get cross. I feel my temperature rise and my voice lowers and I say no, no, no. I say, you know what that word means. You know. You know that I am a woman. You know what that means to say that to your teacher, your female teacher, in an all-boy school. You know how those words hurt and upset me. They know because we went through this last year when they all created a game gleefully called rape-tiggy. They chased down boys and jumped on them and held them down and shouted rape. It was just a bit of fun. A bit of playground silliness. I look at them and see these young men with more-than-considerable wealth and opportunity and the chance to be the difference. I say, boys, you are all so fortunate – this is your world and you can change it. You are the future. You are the difference. Be the difference, I say, make the change and create a better world.

And I think, now, this is your chance. Say something. But he has nothing to say. And I try to speak in general terms and not single him out or make him feel uncomfortable or get confrontational and I speak to the whole class, all of them, and he smiles a sideways smile and giggles and giggles and giggles and I wonder … will you ever have anything to say?

We move on and I praise his efforts. Not too much. Not too much. Quietly. Subtly. Good work. I like the way you … That’s great how you … Thank you for … That sort of thing. I try not to snap up the bait he lays out like a professional fisherman.

I look for the positive. Because he is a kid. And he deserves that. They all do.

I smile as they leave. I always smile and say thank you and see you next week and great class. And some of them say, thank you and see you next week and I had fun and some don’t say anything at all.

He says I hate you. He says I hate this class. And I smile and say thank you.


I think we’re making progress.


Otto: A soppy story

A lot of writers have cats. That wasn’t my reason. I’d always wanted one, you see. Or, maybe, I’d wanted the idea of one. Anyway …

Like they say, the cat chose me. I’d been set on getting a Ragdoll or Scottish Fold or Russian Blue or something. A cat with title. Instead, I got Otto.

We hadn’t expected to get a cat that day. At least, I hadn’t. Visiting the shelter had been a surprise but I was very aware of the current inmates they were housing as I was in the habit of liking the many photos they shared on their social media pages. I was also in the habit of tagging my boyfriend in aforementioned photos. He got the hint. I had talked, liked photos and generally been a pain in the ass about a sweet, pretty, delicate, princess of a cat called Delia and I was finally going to meet her. We met. I felt nothing. Delia felt nothing. I thought that was that. Until we almost walked right past Ulysses. Like his namesake, he had clearly been on quite a journey. Ulysses had an injured ear; someone or something had taken a good chunk out of the top of it. Ulysses was huge. Ulysses filled his little cage. Ulysses had a cool name. He was proud and made eye contact and never felt the need to perform.

He kept on staring. So, I gave in and met him and that was it. We knew. He knew. I knew. The moment he stepped out of his cage. The moment the shelter volunteer picked him so easily despite his hefty size. He was huge, even bigger outside the cage.

We went away to think about it but not really think about and came back and said yes. Sign us up.

He came home.

We called him Otto because Ulysses didn’t have the greatest ending, really. And we wanted him to realise his travelling days were done; no more epic journeys, no more ear-biting-crusades, no more Helens to save. He had retired to a life as an indoor cat because he had to. They said that would be fine. But nobody asked Otto.

When I was teenager I wanted a kitten. Desperately. I was anxious and miserable at high school. I had this dream that a kitten could help all that. A cat would understand. Just as Mum finally gave in to the idea, I backed off. The idea, the dream, of a kitten was easier than reality – maybe? Or maybe I just got scared. What if it didn’t work out? What if I wasn’t quite ready, quite yet, to be a cat owner? What if it didn’t like me? What if … So, it just didn’t happen.

I tried the cat thing again, in my late 20s; supposedly happily married and ready to take the plunge into pet ownership with my supposedly solid relationship as a foundation. It had been eight years, three nearly four of marriage, of course we were ready. We named her Scout because of the book and hipsters weren’t naming their kids that yet. But he discovered a cat was too much commitment too soon and found someone else. They now have a baby with an incredibly hipster name and undeniably big expectations to fulfil – clearly, this child must grow up to front an alternative/indie/pop/rock band with such a name. Somehow, he left me but I moved out and Scout stayed. There was no talk of custody. I didn’t fight the decision.

So. Cat Attempt Number Three. Here I am. A woman on the wrong side of thirty, as I have been so delicately told, once again wondering … is this the right time for a cat? If I don’t do this now, will I ever do it? Will my lifestyle change too much? I mean, no more jumping on a plane for a spontaneous weekend in Sydney. Not like that ever happened. Not once. Although it could. As non-cat owners it could happen. We had that option, that choice. Is our relationship stable enough yet, it has only been three years (zero of that marriage): To share the responsibility of cat could be, I don’t know, a big step. It could change so much …

And yet …

There we were. Bringing Ulysses-now-Otto home. To our home. We hid the delicate artworks that adorned the mantle. We paid far too much for a bit of carpet stuck on a wooden post which doesn’t much our furniture whatsoever. We bought toys which scatter over the floor and trip us up.

We don’t get a good night’s sleep.

We don’t stay out too late.

We clean up poop and furballs and pick cat fur from our black pants and sweaters and sweep and vacuum like we have OCD.

We consider how we could go away and where we could leave him overnight or for a few days and we read blogs and forums about other cat owners.

We learn what his different meows mean and what he is communicating by the shape his tail makes or the position of his ears.

We say how cute, whilst he is sleeping.

And still, I wonder, have I done the right thing? Is this the right decision? It’s too late to change my mind now. When I attempt to get him to stop scratching at the mirror (why the goddamn mirror?) at 3am or crying incessantly at 4.30am or leaping on my pillow only ten minutes before my alarm goes off … But it is too late now. We love him. The commitment has been made. And our lives are, probably, better for it.



Reasons to Stay Inside

Reasons to Stay Inside - Artwork by Clinton Cherry

Reasons to Stay Inside – Artwork by Clinton Cherry

The year I turned 13 was the year I started high school and the year anxiety moved on in.

We didn’t know it was anxiety. Mum and I. We had no idea what it was or even that it could, possibly, have a name. All we knew was that school drop-off became hell. For her and for me.

I couldn’t leave the car.

I really couldn’t.

It was like I was too heavy for my body and everything was in slow motion and I felt sick and exhausted and my heart was pounding– boom, boom, boom, boom – and I was hot and cold and empty and sweaty and red faced and cracked lipped and I was going to be sick or faint …

I couldn’t join that group of girls who met under the veranda by the library and greeted everyone with a hug as if they hadn’t seen each other for years. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I didn’t know how to arrange my face.

Of course, they wouldn’t know this. I would get there, eventually, or not. Some days, Mum would say let’s go home but not always, not everyday and on those days I would get there because I had to. I would join in. None of them would have known. None of them would have noticed the tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat and the tremble in my hands.

I wasn’t good at the things you are meant to be good at high school; parties, talking on the phone, hanging out, sleepovers. That sort of thing. I think I may have been good at it, once, but something happened inside me and I would overthink it and worry and talk myself into not going. So I wouldn’t go. Unless I had to. And when I did, because I had to, I was fine, of course. I had the funny dance moves and the long hair and the silly accents and I could handle this and, most of the time, I did. No one noticed.

They didn’t notice and could not be expected to notice. Why would they? By the time I was in my final year of high school I was school captain and played Juliet in an angst-ridden performance of Romeo and Juliet and I was on the debating team and the school ball committee and the year book committee and carried a clipboard for you to please sign this petition against this and I was in the local newspaper and was probably going to be, like, an actor or something, you know …

But I was struggling. With anxiety.

I could get out of the car and I had figured out how to arrange myself and what to say but I still hadn’t mastered that other stuff. That important stuff. I made myself sick over having to call a friend after school because I didn’t think I would know what to say. I didn’t turn up to parties or just go and hang out on the weekends because I didn’t think I would know how to act. I played versions of these events in my mind, over and over again, until I felt sick and had a stomach ache and thank god I can’t go now.

Friends get annoyed at that sort of thing. Of course they do. You find yourself not invited. You find yourself waiting for them to pick you up for the Year 12 graduation dinner only to discover they’re not coming via your house now because this is payback high school style and of course they cannot understand. How could they?

Anxiety feels like such an issue of privilege … Part of you thinks, how dare I be anxious? It is really, quite ridiculous. But it is true. And it is there. And, my friends, it is the reason I sometimes stay inside and miss your party or the opening of your play or your phone call … and for that I am sorry. I hope you know that. I hope you notice.


I have written a play for young people, Reasons to Stay Inside, about a boy who becomes so anxious he builds a giant pillow fort and refuses to leave it. His best friend does all she can to get him out. Nothing works … But she doesn’t leave him. She stays. She waits.

Anxiety is awful. Having a friend with anxiety is awful. I have written the play I wish I had seen when I was 12 going on 13. I have written the best friend I wish I had had. I have written something I hope will get the conversation started and make it easier for young people to talk about anxiety. 


In Praise of Love


Love Locks Paris

This is a true story.

I was in hiding. Or trying to disappear. Or both. Something like that. You get the idea.

I was eating 500 to 800 calories a day because that happens sometimes and I was running a lot and living alone and binging of Six Feet Under and I had given up on the idea of love. Romantic love. The kind of love people write about and sing about and commit crimes about.

There was one, once, that had been love until, I discovered, he loved a lot of women … at the same time … without them knowing. That could be love – it’s just not my kind of love. The one I thought might have been love wasn’t love. Not even close. He belittled my music choices and stole my washing machine and forgot my birthday. That isn’t love. I was done.

That was that.

I was staying in my mould-ridden studio apartment, doors locked and blinds closed because of the strange man who camped out on the balcony opposite and would look directly into my bedroom slash lounge room slash kitchen. He argued with his wife and liked to sing the national anthem. She would kick him out and he would create a tent, string up sheets and towels across the balcony and sit underneath it, crossed legged on a little cushion and shout “my life, my life” over and over like some sort of mantra. Some days I felt like doing the exact same thing.

I was OK.

And she said, as mothers do, someone will come along when you least expect it and it sounded like something she had heard in a rom-com starring Meg Ryan and I said I don’t need anyone –

I am totally fine with this –

I am a strong, independent woman –

I’m OK –

and I was offended even though I knew she meant well because she is my mother and she loves me and I love her. I know she loves me because she tells me. Growing up, she told all of us numerous times a day – I love you – just in case we died, tragically, bam, gone, just like that. She never would have forgiven herself if she hadn’t said it; if she didn’t know that we knew she loved us.

My family were across the desert and sent their love in pixelated Skype calls once every couple of weeks.

Love you, they would say at the end of the call because what can you say after that?

It was OK.

It really was …

I was writing and I loved writing. I was in Melbourne and I loved Melbourne. I was eating tomatoes and I loved tomatoes. I was performing and I loved performing and I was hanging out with the cast and I loved the cast and I loved the theatre and I loved running and I loved Sundays and loved Six Feet Under and I loved living alone and I loved being thirty two and I loved living so close to the tram line and I loved –

Not much, actually.

Not anything, really.

It was becoming difficult to leave the house. I turned up when I had to turn up. And I smiled and laughed and drank too much wine and would go home in taxis and tell the drivers my boyfriend was waiting for me at home because you have to do that sort of thing sometimes.

Here’s where I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I wasn’t sad because I didn’t have a boyfriend. I wasn’t lonely because I was divorced. I wasn’t empty because I hadn’t eaten.

This was just me back then. Disappearing.

Until someone saw me.

It was unexpected.

Like something my mother would say.

He had nice shoulders and wore great shirts and had a whole face smile and easy laugh and he was taking me on a date and I had no idea what that meant, not really, but I turned up late and we took it from there.

And then I started to fall in love with him and could only hope he was falling in love with me. Even though I knew I wasn’t meant to. Even though I knew the “timing was bad” and I should be “keeping my options open” and “seeing other people” and just being “chill”. Whatever that means. Falling in love makes you vulnerable and stupid and happy and distracted and it is awful and wonderful all at the same time.

I tried to hide the real me as I fell in love with him but I would trip upstairs and lock myself out of restaurants and collapse as elegantly as possible into the gutter and I was always late or changing my mind and he wondered why I wasn’t hungry again and he just kept on looking and watching and seeing me.

But I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want anyone to see me. Instead, I tried to make myself as small as I could. Just small enough, you see, nothing crazy – I would know when it was getting crazy. I had this under control.

Except I didn’t.

There I was, watching myself from afar, being in love and going through all the crazy-crazy whirlwind romance stuff and feeling elated and hungry and fat and ugly and gross and anxious and miserable.

I wasn’t eating enough.

I was living alone.

I was turning up when I had to.

I was smiling too much and drinking too much and staying over at his place way too much.

I was holding my breath and waiting for him to run.

But he didn’t. He started cooking dinners. And put avocado on English muffins for breakfast. And made protein filled lunches.

Then he said he loved me … even though he could see me. The real me. I could no longer hide. He wouldn’t let me disappear. He wouldn’t let me become invisible.

Love found me. It noticed.

Love became doctor appointments and specialists and therapists and waiting rooms and The Age quiz and driving and feeding the parking metre and celebrating small victories with champagne and eating and swimming and saying you’re beautiful even if its not quite true and an old camera and space and time and listening, really listening.

It was being seen.

I got better, so much better and I’m always getting better because of him and that love. I would have disappeared without it.

As George Elliot wrote “Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another” – love deserves its praise because that one true, loving soul can encourage us to grow and heal and get better – maybe even save us. Isn’t that what love is about? Maybe?



This monologue was presented at The School of Life’s Symposium: In Praise of Love. I spoke in praise of love and then posed my question to create conversation amongst the audience. It was exhilarating and terrifying – a bit like falling in love … 

A Thank You Note or: Happy Mother’s Day

It’s raining here but not there where you are – at home. I checked. I always check. It will be sunny with an expected maximum of 25 degrees and clear blue skies. OK. I don’t know about the clear blue skies. I’m assuming that. It’s probably a fair assumption, right?

It’s raining here and it’s sunny there. The rain made me remember a day, many, many years ago. I’m not sure you remember it. I’m not sure it’s even true. But it’s a memory, a moment, that often comes to me on rainy, miserable days like today. We were in primary school, us four girls, and getting ready for it when you said, “let’s not go to school today”. Just like that. Unexpected. Unprecedented. Magical. The rain was heavy, at least in my memory, and the lights were on even though it was morning. You thought it would be a perfect day to sit in front of the heater and drink hot Milo. And so we did. On that rainy, miserable day, much like the day I’m having here, now, without you.

My memory has added a soft filter to the image of us sitting by the heater with our mugs of Milo. In my memory, we echo the illustrated cover of our battered copy of Little Women. That’s all I remember about that day. I push my memory to squeeze out a little more and all I can conjure up is that old heater. Maybe. Or maybe I am just able to remember the heater because we had it for such a long time. A dark brown, heavy thing; you had to hold down one button and click the other to get it going and it took longer and longer to start as it got older and older. Like we all do, I suppose.

I am sure there is more to that day than Milo and a heater and no school.

I can’t remember the details.

But I can remember the feeling. The feeling of possibility and safety and warmth and love. And that is worth so much. What a gift! How lucky am I, to have a mother who gave us that? And you have continued, always, to give us those gifts; possibility, safety, warmth and love.

I hope you know how much that means to me. I hope you know how much that day meant: No school, hot Milo and a heater.

Thank you, Mum.


Mum, Me and the very early 80s.

Mum, Me and the very early 80s.