About Me

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I am a full-time mama with a passion for writing and talking to fascinating people. I live in a one horse town with a Cowboy and my son. Thank Lord for cyberspace! I lived a colourful life in Sydney for a number of years. Working in advertising and journalism for FPC and the Sydney Morning Herald. During my time in Sydney I competed in a Dragon Boat race, choreographed a dragshow, used the Share Accomodation advertisements as a way to meet men and was told by Noiseworks frontrunner Jon Stevens that I was a bitch! Then came the decision to move back to country for 3 months to help out my Father with newspaper business while he was having treatment. Convinced I was a city girl I was caught by surprise when I fell in love with a farmer (and no, he didn't want a wife... still doesn't it seems!) convinced him that we needed to see the world, popped off to Vietnam to teach english in Saigon - before realising that the "food" in Nam didn't agree with me... turned out to be Monte - my son who is now with the Cowboy and I back in country NSW! I am in a wonderful stage of my life where I am focusing on the things that really make me tick. Including writing these chronicles.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A woman who does what she loves

I'd like you to virtually meet a very inspiring lady...

Tania McCartney

I admit, she inspired me initially because she awarded me $100 Trenery (new range at Country Road) voucher for my poetry... but then I delved deeper.

This lady not only writes children's books but she is a columnist for Australian Women Online, an accomplished blogger AND has lived in exotic, amazing countries ... oh and she has children. (Yay more proof it can be done, it can be done!) She does what she loves and is darn good at it ... so today I got into her psyche and now I am waiting to see if anything rubs off...

What do you do and why do you love it?

I am a children’s author, bloggist, magazine writer, traveller, party-thrower, mango-eater and mum. I’ve been writing for over 25 years and have been both published and self-published in that time. I’ve written for several magazines including Time Out, beijingkids, City Weekend Beijing, Dolly magazine and Australian Parents. I currently write for Australian Women Online and spend every spare moment working on my children’s book series - the travel adventures of Riley.

Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A Journey Around Beijing was published during our family’s time living in Beijing. I’m still thrilled by its success, which propelled me to start a series. The next book – Riley and the Dancing Lion: A Journey Around Hong Kong will be published in November 2009, and next year, Riley will be journeying to Sydney. I have had a blast creating these books because they combine my passion for photography, travel, history and… kids books. I never dreamt I’d write my own kids books. I have a new illustrator for book two, and am so excited about his work.

I love my work because I need it to survive – I live and breathe every drop. Having dreamt of being a self-sufficient writer since I was a tot, it feels quite surreal to have achieved this. Being able to couple writing with design, styling, photography and travel has just tipped things right over the edge into Happy Happy Joy Land and I’m truly living the dream. To be creative, self-styled and totally expressive, and call it work… well, just pinch me.

What obstacles have you had on the way to reaching this point?

The biggest obstacle anyone can face is self-doubt. I’ve struggled with this for so long, mainly at the hands of discouragement. It’s so easy to ‘give up’ if things don’t go according to plan, and I’ve done this many times, wasting many years.

It wasn’t until we moved to Beijing in 2005 that I finally found the chutzpah to charge on through the fear and refuse to let it defeat me. I turned 40 and I thought, okay – enough mucking around. Basically, every time an ‘obstacle’ appeared, I said “oh hello, obstacle” and just ploughed on through. There’s something to be said for refusing to give up. Every time I faced an obstacle and strategized ways through it, it fell away of its own weight. Every. Single. Time.

Where is the most amazing place you have lived and why?

The most amazing place I’ve lived is probably Paris. Only because it was during a watershed time for my own personal, inner workings (I don’t mean plumbing) and it’s also a pretty extraordinary place to feast the eyes (and tongue) upon. Everything there is beautiful; even the pothole covers. I’ve also lived in Beijing, London and almost every Australian state, and I can honestly say each and every place had its beauty and unique finds. London is quite extraordinary and I miss it terribly. Beijing has become part of my soul. I’m now trying to wangle a stint in Manhattan with a beach house on Martha’s Vineyard.

What are you inspired by?

I’m inspired by the everyday – small things like the weight of our pet rabbits in my hands, a tiny bronze Cambodian Buddha on my desk, a conversation with someone unexpected, the giggling of my kids, a particularly beautiful piece of patterned paper, a Vietnamese rice paper roll when it’s crunched between the teeth. Little things. They make me want to create.

Another inspiration is meeting people who are driven – not to the point of obsession but to the point of insatiable desire to do what they love – so much so, they don’t give up, they don’t let people down, they commit with every bone in their body and go out of their way to do things with dignity and excellence. These people are exceptionally rare.

I’m also big on aesthetics – photography, film, art, decorating and design – they all inspire me to do something innovative with my writing. And lastly, travel. Witnessing the dichotomy in sights and culture and beliefs and cuisine and language is enough to send anyone into a creative lather.

How do you inspire other women?

I hope I inspire women through my writing. I definitely write from the heart, in my own voice, with irreverence for how things ‘should’ be. I’m open and share my views and experience with both humour and candor, but refuse to revert to schlock or controversy.

I also like to research and share new or more interesting or more beautiful ways of doing things and seeing life. The older I get, the more impassioned I feel about seizing life and making it beautiful in the littlest of ways. Of finding appreciation and dedication and tenderness and calm.

I also hope I can inspire women by my commitment to follow my passion. I actually dislike this most common of phrases, but it really does coin things for me. Right Now has been a long-awaited time in my life, and if I can encourage anyone else to step off the Maybe platform and take the plunge – well, that would be a very fulfilling thing.

Describe your perfect day?

Early cuddles from the kids, a swim at Bondi icebergs pool or yoga on an endless lawn in the morning sun, a home-made Continental breakfast on our decking, an unexpected package in the mail, working on travel photo books with my daughter, watching my son play football, sushi lunch, Luna park and fairy floss with the kids, a late afternoon stroll through a farmer’s market anywhere in Italy, a BBQ dinner with friends, a Broadway show, writing late into the night, reading a décor magazine in bed with husband cuddles, instant sleep-when-head-hits-pillow.

Too ambitious?

If you could escape to anywhere and do anything what would it be?

Ubud. A bungalow with flowers and the sound of local prayers poking in through the windows. My camera and my laptop.

How do you juggle mamahood with pursuing your passions?

Very carefully. When I become impassioned by something, I throw myself in so deeply, I drown. Everything suffers, especially my health – so I have to watch this. My kids are very used to hearing “when I’ve finished this article, darling” but I’m really aware of minimizing the occurrence of this sentence wherever I can.

It sounds trite, but I cope by consistently attempting a tightrope balance. I’m getting better at it the older I get – but like most mums who want to work, I still struggle. I’m very aware of how fortunate I am to have such a supportive husband who goes out of his way to help and is so fantastic with the kids.

The other thing I do is regularly take reprieve from my tendency to be anal. Yes, sometimes I actually leave the floor unswept and let the ironing pile up into a Jabba-the-Hut creation in the corner. I’ve come a loooong way to be able to do this (and not hyperventilate).

How has becoming a Mother inspired you?

By giving me a sense of inner power that is totally borne of the love a mother feels for her offspring. I would do anything for my kids and feel insatiably driven to protect and nurture and uplift them. I feel compelled to be an example to them, to show them they can do anything if they dedicate themselves intently enough. I also feel impassioned to leave them with beautiful mementoes of their lives, and extraordinary memories. This passion constantly inspires me.

Greatest achievement?

Conquering fear and self-doubt. Showing my children how to do this. I think it’s an extraordinary life tool. I wouldn’t say I’ve completely mastered it, but I’m certainly slaying dragons.

Advice for others wanting to do what they love?

Understand that it’s a process that needs a modicum of planning and research, and a hell of a lot of drive. The moment you bat an eyelid at an obstacle, your setback will cost you time and energy. Don’t bat that eyelid. Obstacles will still challenge you, but stare them down and don’t stray. Be singular. And cliché of all clichés – just don’t give up. Remember that ‘success’ is dependent on your ability to get up and keep going after you fall.

Now, the sub-clause to the above statement is to be realistic and self-effacing. Don’t throw yourself in blindly and never ‘start big’. Start small and reinvest. Be willing to listen to criticism and advice from others. Look for feedback. Take the hint if it’s bad. It doesn’t mean you can’t follow the path of your passion, but be open to variations on a theme. Educate yourself. Research. Plan. Be proactive. For example, don’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write. Writers write.

Also, consistently search for every avenue you can to fuel your dream – even if it means you have to do it for nothing for a while. And it goes without saying that if you get a ‘no’, just ask the next person. Or do it yourself and tell yourself ‘yes’.

For more on Tania’s books, including stockists, visit www.taniamccartney.com. For inspiration on making parenthood and childhood memorable and beautiful, visit her blog at http://taniamccartney.blogspot.com. For those interested in kids books and literature, visit Tania’s Kids Book Review at http://kids-book-review.blogspot.com/.

If there is an inspirational lady you think I should talk to (yourself included) don't be a stranger now...

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