The Booktopia Book Guru asks
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born in Sydney. Raised in Sydney. Schooled in Sydney. All just a handful of suburbs apart. Lived in Italy for a year after school. Returned to Sydney to settle near where I was born/raised/schooled. I’ve moved many times but never out of the area. Gosh, I sound so sad and limited.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
At 12: the editor of Dolly.
At 18: the editor of Cleo.
At 30: anything but a magazine editor.
I was passionate about magazines when they were the hottest game in town. Growing up that’s how I identified my tribe, via a masthead. But by the time I hit 30 I had one child, was psychotically desperate to have another and frustrated with the slow pace, lies and…. stuckness of magazines. They really have not changed since the 80s. But the world has. And so have women. I missed it for a little bit but more the working in a team of women part. Now I’ve re-created that with Mamamia and it’s a million times more fun and satisfying. All my friends who are still in mags are gagging to get out.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That I was ready to be an editor. And that the faster I ticked off everything on my Life List – career, moving in, babies, more babies, more career, faster, faster, more, more, faster – the better. Actually, the faster I did things the faster they fell apart. I’ve learnt that lesson again and again. Foundations may not sound like a sexy thing but by GOD you’d better have them underneath your career and your relationship if you want either of them to work out.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
1-Meeting Lisa Wilkinson and being given a work experience placement by her at Cleo when she could (and probably should) have chosen dozens of other girls. I have learnt more from her than anyone else in my career. And she’s also taught me a huge amount in my private life. I feel so fortunate to have gone from calling her an idol to calling her a friend. I’m feeling teary just thinking about it.
2- Losing my baby daughter halfway through my second pregnancy was a turning point in my life. It began a chain of events that were awful but eventually wonderful. I’d say the same thing about struggling with infertility afterwards. It made me a more compassionate, humble, open person even though it hurt more than I had words for.
3- Taking a job at Channel Nine and becoming a TV executive for eight long months – or maybe it was only 7 – was the best thing that could have happened in my career. It wrenched me out of the warm, milky bosom of women’s magazines, put me through a sausage grinder with no anaesthetic and by the time I found the courage to push the eject button, my self-esteem, reputation and confidence were minced. It took a long time to recover and I was ashamed and humiliated (among other things!) but it toughened me up, taught me what I DIDN’T want to do for a job and made me reassess everything. Most importantly, it prompted me to start Mamamia.com.au the day I resigned.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
Books are the only medium in which I write where people have to pay to read it. They have to take the decision to allocate me money from their pockets and time from their lives and they have to commit. That is tremendously scary to contemplate but it gives me a feeling of security to write more personally and in more depth and detail. I really really enjoy writing in a more disposable way too – with my column and with Twitter and particularly Mamamia.com.au – but for a writer, nothing beats the luxury of a 100,000 word wordcount.
6. Please tell us about your latest book Mia Culpa…
I write so much that it sometimes feels like things I want to say or develop on a bit can get lost in the disposable culture I mentioned. With this book, I wanted to take some of my favourite columns and re-work them and expand them and add some new material. Like taking favourite ingredients and making a different kind of cake with fresh icing and jam and cream. And a cup of tea. And….where was I?
(BBGuru: Here’s the publisher’s synopsis: Sometimes, when I meet someone new and I tell them I’m a writer, they ask ‘What do you write about?’ Tricky question. It’s a lot like asking a woman who’s just come home from a girl’s dinner ‘What did you talk about?’ The short answer? EVERYTHING.
When Mia Freedman talks, people listen. Perhaps not her husband. Or her children. But other people. Women. Mia has a knack for putting into words the dilemmas, delights and dramas of women everywhere. The new rules for dating in the internet-romance age? Yep, tricky stuff. Things are not what they used to be. And sex talk at the dinner table? Appropriate or not? Perhaps not, unless in an educational capacity and even then some things are best left unsaid . . . And what about Botox, Brazilians, and boobs that are not as fabulous as they once were? With intrepid curiosity and a delicious sense of humour, Mia navigates her way through the topics – great and small – of modern life.
Mia Culpa is funny, moving and just like one long, wonderful dinner-party conversation.
With chapters such as Does My Bum Look Old in This? Life with Children, I Used to Be Cool Too, and The Sex Gap, Mia nails life as it really, really is.)
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
For there to be a more realistic portrayal of women in the media. I never tire of feeling outraged by the way we are sold utter lies about the way women look. It’s disgusting and most of us don’t even realise what we’re looking at every day in every magazine and on every billboard is a computer construction. It doesn’t exist. How can this even be legal? And why aren’t more people making a noise?
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
Anyone who is doing good away from the spotlight. Not that people like Oprah aren’t extraordinary or inspirational but she gets a lot of love and gratification from what she does. People who are working to help those who are disadvantaged – children and refugees particularly – have my utmost respect and admiration.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I can never answer questions about goals or future plans. My husband has them for our business but I prefer to limit my forward planning to the weekend. Tops.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Start a blog. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. You just need to get into writing as something you do each day, not just this namby pamby unpredictable THING that floats in and out of your life unannounced when the MUSE arrives. Muse, shmuse. Writing is a discipline. Get on with it. You can always edit crap words. You can’t edit no words. Google “Elizabeth Gilbert, Ted Talks” and watch her video. THAT’S my attitude to writing. (BBGuru: no need to Google – it’s down below)
Mia, thank you for playing.
After placing your order for MIA CULPA (click here to do so and save 20%)
…visit Mia’s site – here:
Follow Mia on Twitter – here
And if you have time, read my Mia related confession here
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.