Thursday, March 22, 2012

the divided heart - a giveaway

I clearly remember the days that I spent reading The Divided Heart for the first time. Che had a serious fever so I lay with him in bed, breastfeeding on demand, flicking through the pages of Rachel Power's book when I wasn't comforting him. It was a fair few years ago now but the message imbued within its pages still resonates with me.

"The divided heart; a split self; the sense that to succeed at one is to fail at the other."  


Motherhood for me has been a series of successes and failures. Indeed, you can't have one without the other. I'll admit that it took a good while after birth for me to find my 'voice' again - to write creatively and passionately. Before then, the sentences just didn't come together. I don't feel like I sacrificed my artistic self for motherhood - it just took a back seat while I navigated those first few years. It took a while for me to recognise my new self and artistically I was silent. During that time there were many days where I flicked open my now dog-eared copy of The Divided Heart to seek some reassurance and inspiration.

 
In a series of deeply honest interviews, famous Australian women (and some not so famous) discuss the challenge of being a mother and an artist. The Divided Heart is a beautiful blend of intellect and conversation - raw, moving and personal. It explores the pain and the joy of being a mother and an artist and, at its very core, it offers a comforting reassurance: it is possible to do both, it just takes time.


I have one copy of The Divided Heart to give away. All you need to do is become a follower of Che & Fidel and leave a comment with your name and email address. This giveaway is open to international readers and will close March 28th. A winner will be chosen using the random number generator and I'll update this post with the winner's name. 


Comments Closed. The Random Number Generator chose #22 - Tara Lucia Zaicz - congratulations lovely one!

I had the pleasure of interviewing the very eloquent Rachel Power about her experience writing the book and the affects it had on her professionally and personally.....


Q: When did you first think of the concept for The Divided Heart?

A: I really can’t remember the initial spark, but in general the book came out of the psychic shock of becoming a mother; the way it brought everything else in my life into question. I know people roll their eyes at this — “It’s not like you’re the first woman to have a baby, lady” — but I think few of us are prepared for the way mothering tips our lives upside-down. Few, if any, experiences come near the emotional and practical impact of having children.

I had studied art history at university and I had largely swallowed the myth of the artist as a solitary, brooding, extreme character not really fit for everyday life. I didn’t have a picture of how an artist might pursue a creative career alongside, let alone within, a domestic life. Also, now that I was confronted with the enormity of the job of raising kids and maintaining a house, I gained a sudden insight into why — traditionally at least — it might have been so difficult for women to become successful artists.

This all seemed like very significant and largely unexplored territory to me, especially within the Australian context.

Q: How did your experience, as a mother and a writer, affect the creation of the book?

A: As a mother, it made it very slow! It was a stop-start process, interrupted mid-way by the birth of my second baby, but of course mothering was my subject, so really I was just describing my life as a new mother torn between my need to write and my passion for my kids. Of course, the book is really a distillation of the most heightened, extreme moments of that time, because it’s in those moments that you have the strongest need to express yourself. This inevitably means there are some readers who react against the book’s perceived intensity or self-indulgence. But personally I think you’ve got to milk those extreme moments, because that’s where the greatest honesty lies, and where you’re most likely to be tapping into something universal.

Q: How did you get all your interviewees involved?

A: didn't really know that I was writing a book when I first started. I was just hungry for answers to what seemed like this problem of combining art and mothering, so I began sporadically approaching artists I admired.

Of course I’d done huge amounts of reading and thinking on the theme, so I arrived at interviews full of passion and ideas. What I wasn’t prepared for was how articulate these women were about their experiences. With some, it was as though they’d been waiting years to have a serious discussion about the subject, which obviously loomed so large in their lives. That’s what turned mere interviews into really exciting conversations.

It was really their enthusiasm for the project, and my sense of responsibility to them, that gave me the energy to continue.

Q: What was the journey like for you as a writer - what did you learn professionally?

A: It’s always difficult to know what you learned from a project. I know what I’d do differently if I wrote The Divided Heartagain, but that doesn't necessarily help me with the next book!

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned about writing generally is that the best ideas come from some liquid world that flows beneath the surface of our conscious mind. The challenge is being available to receive those ideas when they swim up to meet us — not easy for mothers, who are so caught up in the demands of the material world. Also, I’ve learnt the importance of recording those ideas straight away. If you miss them the first time, they rarely come back again.

The other challenge for me is not losing sight of why I write in the first place; difficult when time alone is so scarce you’re almost crushed by the pressure to use it meaningfully. (The temptation to just cut your losses and do another load of washing is always fierce!) That’s why kids are such great teachers when it comes to making art; they’re not focused on the outcome, they’re just engaged in the joy of making something.

Q: Did you approach your role as mother and artist differently after writing the book?

A: Not differently enough! I’ve realised that there’s a reason why it was me (and not somebody else) who wrote The Divided Heart — because for me the internal conflict between creativity and mothering seems to be particularly extreme.

Firstly, I am a very slow writer and not very good at switching my creative brain off and on, not helped by being constantly interrupted! Also, I am really bad at withdrawing, physically and psychologically, from my family. A while ago, my partner took our kids to the adventure playground in St Kilda and writer/comedian Catherine Deveny wandered in with her three boys, set herself up at a table with her laptop and told the kids to come back only when they’re starving. Man, that woman rocks! I am way too pathetic for that. I’d be following them around the park all day trying to make sure nobody breaks an arm.

For me, the state of mind required for family life — not just the mothering, but the constant wrestling with the beast that is housework, bills, cooking, washing and preparing whatever uniform/instrument/note/lunchbox is required for the next day’s activities — feels the complete antithesis of what is required for creative work. Well, I’m bad at it, anyway; I know others who manage it with great flair.

Also, I have a day job, so writing is pressed in around the edges of my day-to-life. That said, if there’s anything I did learn from writing The Divided Heart, it’s that there is no substitute for discipline — and this is probably truer for mothers than anyone. Mothers need to give themselves the permission to carve out time for art, even if it’s only half an hour a day, and then the discipline to use that time wisely.

Q: What has been the general response from readers?

A:The lovely thing about writing a book like The Divided Heart is that your readers are mostly people just like you. So when readers contact me, I always respond, and it’s like emails between friends. A lot of women have sent me detailed messages about their own situations and struggles, and that is always very moving. It means a lot to me to know that the book offered solace or inspired someone to keep making their own work.

Of course there have been those who have reacted against the book — either they see it as a bunch of whinging women with white-goods who don’t know how good they’ve got it, or they just don’t relate (or don’t want to admit) to the maternal ambivalence I talk about. There are also those who immediately perceive the book as dark and as negative about mothering. I feel like I’ve got to constantly assert that it’s precisely because I love my kids so much that I experience such intense internal conflict. Otherwise I would have just outsourced their care and spent my time writing and it wouldn’t be a dilemma, would it?

Women need to be able to talk about how hard and confronting mothering can be — as well as how joyful — otherwise we’d all go a bit mad (or a bit madder, in my case).

Q: What's your next project?

A:I have just abandoned one novel to start another (still in embryonic stage). The abandoned one was almost a fictionalised version of The Divided Heart and I think I will come back to it. I’m not entirely done with the artist–mother thing yet, but I feel like I need a break from that particular obsession. (If you are looking for a great book on the theme, though, I highly recommend my friend Peggy Frew’s House of Sticks.) Everything I write is about relationships of one kind or another, but this new story was inspired by a news item I read recently rather than directly out of my own life — which, frankly, is a bit of a relief. 

61 comments:

  1. I would love to read this Jodi
    Looking forward to meeting you with Luisa this weekend!!

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  2. Lovely, I would love to read this, jxxx

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  3. Great interview! I'd looove to read that book!
    Should I write my e-mail adress here?

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  4. This sounds amazing.

    Great giveaway Jodi.

    x

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  5. I've been dying to read it since I heard her speak on Radio National...thanks Jodi

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  6. Hi, I'm from the other side of the world... but maybe I will get it. (i wish)
    So i leave my email adress: msabido@gmail.com

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  7. I'm a follower. This book sounds great! Thanks for the chance!

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  8. Oh wonderful, I would love to read this. Motherhood changes us in strange ways, doesn't it? x

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  9. Would love to read this.
    marycatherinehamelin@gmail.com

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  10. Sounds interesting. I need something more than just baby food and development books to read!

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  11. Hi Jodi, I am a silent follower of your blog! and would be thrilled to read this. hx

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  12. would love to read this, while nursing my little baby....

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  13. It's reassuring to hear that you too lost your "voice" for awhile. It gives me hope that I'll hit my stride again soon. I'm also interested in reading this book, thanks :).
    penelopes dot pad @ gmail.com

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  14. Sounds like a great book.. and I have plenty of time for reading at the moment! x

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  15. this sounds amazing. such a good giveaway!
    jennfos@gmail.com

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  16. Sounds beautiful. Fingers crossed x

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  17. I'm feeling pretty lucky today. Kellie xx

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  18. What an awesome giveaway! I sure hope I have a new book to add to my collection ;) x

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  19. This sounds like such a beautiful book.
    Thanks Jodi xx

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  20. i love being introduced to books about mothering/parenting...thank you x

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  21. Mmmm balance. Fantastic give away! calebandtara@bigpond.com x

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  23. this is all so good to know. The book looks wonderful and if I am not lucky this time I will buy the book because it sounds so interesting to me
    my email mariella@hollywoodroadblog.com. I am already a happy follower :)

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  24. I can definitely relate ... fingers crossed x

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  25. This sounds like a lovely book. I would love to read this. Thanks! Lisa x

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  26. How timely a read this would be (I've just deferred my bachelor of visual art to stay at home with Eve).

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  27. I was just thinking about this topic, I think I've been hoping when I become a mumma soon I'll be spending more time on art than I can now (as I'll be escaping a long day job) however... perhaps I'm kidding myself completely. I would love to read this, and will track down a copy for sure.

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  28. Thanks for the introduction to this wonderful sounding book. Exactly what I'm in need of as I contemplate the next step in my silver-smithing journey now that I'm stay at home Mum to two children. Justifying my time at the bench was always difficult, even though I need my creative outlets and any extra money that I can bring in makes things easier for all of us. xx

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  29. I'm loving your blog which is why I am sending a Sunshine Award your way!!
    Visit my blog: dewandolive.blospot.com
    d+o xo

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  30. oh, i would love to read this! i can most definitely relate :)

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  31. I would love to read this book!

    quaresma.ines@gmail.com

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  32. Sounds like a winner! Would love a copy of this book. toalison(at)gmail.com

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  33. This sounds sounds like a great read! It's definitely something that interests me, especially as a Stay At Home Mom...

    HelloOliveDesigns [at] gmail [dot] com

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  34. Gosh I need this book, as a formerly practising painter and installation artist, children have left me exhausted, with little time for anything creative. I sew late into the evenings, fulfilling a tiny part of that urge - but its an itch that largely remains un scratched.

    laurenamandacross@gmail.com

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  35. Gosh I need this book, as a formerly practising painter and installation artist, children have left me exhausted, with little time for anything creative. I sew late into the evenings, fulfilling a tiny part of that urge - but its an itch that largely remains un scratched.

    laurenamandacross@gmail.com

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  36. thanks for that - the divided heart is how I feel every day. Success besides failure... I guess, I have to read that book! :)
    xoxo Denise

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  37. Pretty please I need to read this book! As wonderful as mothering is, the need to carve out a space that is mine and expresses and honous my adult self has never felt so acute!
    Plus I am an excellent re-gifter, s this book would go far!
    X umi

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  38. Pretty please I need to read this book! As wonderful as mothering is, the need to carve out a space that is mine and expresses and honous my adult self has never felt so acute!
    Plus I am an excellent re-gifter, s this book would go far!
    X umi

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  39. Yes please. Sign me up! P.S. I linked to you today, in a subtle way.

    The book looks great. I just watched a movie on a similar topic called "Who Does She Think She Is?" I'm not sure it would resonate with you the same way, but it has hung in my thoughts the last few days.

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  40. I would love to read this book!Thank you for the blog...

    noabick@gmail.com

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  41. Thank you!

    elizabethamarchese(at)gmail(dot)com

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  42. What a wonderful interview, mostly because it resonates with me. I was also shocked by the demands of motherhood, and continue to struggle to find balance in my life. I would love to get a copy if picked. Thanks a lot!

    amina.kz(at)gmail(dot)com

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  43. Ooh me please! Henriette Brettell hbrettell@gmail.com
    xxx

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  44. I am already a follower of your lovely blog! Please enter me in the Giveaway

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  45. Thanks for sharing this, it's exactly what I've been thinking about lately. Rachael.Ringenberg@gmail.com

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  46. I'm already a follower too.
    As I prepare for birth of number three, I slowly pack my creative mediums into boxes. I need those drawers now for booties and growsuits, nappies and blankies. It is a bittersweet process and one that I know has a place and a season. I have never heard of this book but I think I would like it quite a lot.
    Thanks Jodi, for all that you bring to Mumma's the World over.
    julie@georgiepie.com.au

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  47. I think this would be a really important book for me to read, i am constantly struggling to balance the mother and the musician roles in my life. But i am getting there... :)

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    1. I am a silent follower from the other side of the world. I've been following your blog since my daughter was born; she's very close to Poet in age. Divided Heart... I would love to read this book.
      anya.epelbaum (at) viu.ca

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  48. This is so very lovely. As a mother who writes about and fumbles and struggles and celebrates my own journey as a creative mother - I'm very happy to have discovered you both. Beautiful blog. Beautiful book. Beautiful mamas! Thank you for your inspiration. xoxo

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  49. Looks like a wonderful read!

    And thanks for your words too!

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  50. Looks like a wonderful read!

    And thanks for your words too!

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  51. Looks like a wonderful read!

    And thanks for your words too!

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  52. I'm a follower, and this book looks wonderful!

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  53. Will definitely have to find this book myself if I am not lucky enough to find it!

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  54. Loved this book - have read it a couple of times and will read it again! Gives me hope that I can one day find some balance. Would be great to have another copy as I always want to lend it to people, but worry I won't get my copy back! xK

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  55. I loved this book too. So obviously I don't need to take part in the giveaway - but how great you are doing that. This book was a huge part of my own research for my documentary film "Lost In Living," which is in post-production. Deals with many of the same themes. If you're interested you can check out the website at www.maandpafilms.com/lostinliving. There's a trailer on there too. Thanks for highlighting such a wonderful book and such a wonderful artist and mother as Rachel. Love your blog too.

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  56. Hi Jodi, stumbled across your blog via Bron's and am now a new follower...loved reading her feature post on you this morning..those words certainly rang true for me. Now that I have baby No 2 in my arms all those thoughts and insecurites come flooding back...its so important that us Mums cut ourselves so slack from time to time..we are pretty darn awesome and do a fantastic job of keeping the family together and household running smoothly.
    This books sounds awesome...and the title very fitting..so very true for me.
    Please count me in on your giveaway...would make the perfect read for those early morning feeds ; )
    Anna x

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  57. Sign me up!

    kate (at) peripheralvision (dot) ca

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  58. I'm helping to organise a Mamapalooza festival in Sydney - celebrating mums in the creative and performing arts. Tap Gallery in May. So important. Not just that mums continue their creative work, but that works about mothering are part of our culture, and that mums see themselves reflected in the culture, honestly, with all the confronting, conflicting, ambiguous trials and joys of mothering.

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