So. My new book. That’s the sound of me being excited (except about being on the cover – that’s just bloody weird). And I hope you will be too. I’ve done a bit of press for it already so I thought I’d run through a couple of the most common questions I’ve been asked and answer them for you (even though you totally haven’t asked or may not even care).
Why is your book called Mia Culpa? Is Culpa your maiden name?
No, no it’s not. That would be Freedman. Mia Culpa is a play on the Latin expression “Mea Culpa” which means “my fault”. It’s something I have always said a lot because I screw up rather a lot. Personally, professionally, big things and small. And I’ve never really had a problem with admitting that. In fact, I’m usually in a hurry to admit it. I’m not sure why that is but I like to write (and live) honestly and it’s often easier to just admit you’ve done something wrong or made a bad call instead of trying to defend the undefendable.
What’s this book about?
Well, what’s this website about? Everything. It’s not a memoir like my last book Mamamia was. That book was huge (to write, emotionally & mentally & physically) and hasn’t dated. It’s still totally relevant to my life and my past and really discloses a huge number of things about my life and my career that you won’t read anywhere else. This book is not that. It’s lighter. I took my favourite columns as a jumping off point and threw them in a blender, re-worked them, updated them, added a bunch of new material and wove it all together in a way that you’ll understand easily when you buy the book. See how I said “when”? That’s called projecting optimism. Or something.
Can I buy it as an e-book? How?
Yes you can! Go to Kobo here and you can buy it right now to read on your Kobo e-reader or your ipad. Some people have already tweeted me that they’ve done that. GO technology.
Why did you want to write another book?
For money, OBVIOUSLY because you know that books are lucrative. Except they’re not really and money is the last reason why I did it. Honestly, I like being able to write for a smaller audience about more personal things in a bigger way. Smaller audience, more room. I like that.
You know what? Here’s a video that Penguin made for their website. Highlights include a cameo by my dog Harry and almost seeing up my dress while I’m sitting on a couch. You can ask questions in comments and I’ll answer them. How’s that for a plan?
And here is a review from the famous Amanda Whitley aka Bugmum who used to be MM’s moderator and is now a web guru herself:
It’s been a while since I’ve actually spoken to Mia, both of us being far better at texting and tweeting and emailing, so I’m looking forward to a ‘real’ conversation. When we do connect, our chatter is punctuated by the telltale echo of a car kit and click-click-click of a blinker in the background.
But that’s ok…Mia is never happier than when she’s multitasking. After all, this is a woman who runs the massively popular website Mamamia, tweets incessantly, is mum to three children, appears regularly on the Today show, chairs the National Body Image Advisory Group and still finds time to support causes such as Vicks Road to Relief. Doing a phone interview while navigating the snarls of Sydney traffic is child’s play.
The occasion for our catch up is the upcoming release of Mia’s latest book. But true to form, she wants to spend the first 15 minutes finding out what’s new in my life…this is a woman infinitely fascinated by others’ stories. It’s something that comes clearly across in Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life.
Described by her publisher as “funny, moving and just like one wonderful dinner-party conversation,” the book is based on some of Mia’s favourite columns; reshaped and given new life in a book format. While central threads run through each chapter, anecdotes shift from one to the other like a chat with a girlfriend – sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always relevant.
It’s a very different, lighter read than Mia’s last title: Mamamia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines and Motherhood. That was an intensely personal account of the highs and lows of her life to date, which I devoured in a morning, alternately howling with laughter and sobbing like a lunatic. Unflinching in its honesty, the book revealed her personal journey
So much of what she wrote about was familiar to me – infertility, miscarriage, the ups and downs of marriage and kids – and, at times, I could have written the words myself. And herein lies Mia’s vast appeal. As her book’s dust jacket proclaims, “Mia has a knack for putting into words the dilemmas, delights and dramas of women everywhere.”
“With this book I was able to take a whole lot of observations and really tie them in together and put a new persepective on all the things I love to write about,” says Mia.
“Everyhing from body image to motherhood to “does my bum look big in this?” or “does my bum look old in this?” to friendship and dating and modern technology and social media.”
Seemingly diverse issues, but Mia skillfully wends her way from one topic to the other, in a style reminiscent of the patterns of female conversation.
“I always say it’s impossible to follow a straight line in a conversation between two women. It kind of darts all over the place…but you always come back to a central idea.”
Much of Mia’s material has been gleaned from the lives of friends, her 20 000 plus twitter followers, and the readers of Mamamia, her virtual watercooler. There, thousands of women meet online each and every day to discuss, debate, laugh…and, above all, share.
It’s a largely supportive community of women (and a few men) who, routinely, spill intimate details of their lives to people they haven’t met (and probably never will) but for whom Mama Mia has become a kind of online home.
“Sharing is how we process our lives,” says Mia. “As women, we need to make sense of things by sharing ours and other’s experiences.”
And share they do. On issues as diverse as asylum seekers and Jennifer Aniston’s latest haircut. And there are always a handful of issues guaranteed to get commenters fired up, and ensure the website’s moderators have a busy day.
“It’s all the things that we’re so terrified we’re getting wrong – these are the issues on which we tend to attack women who are making different choices to ours. Issues like birth, breastfeeding, work and motherhood, body image, feminism, and plastic surgery.”
It’s Mia’s honest and down to earth approach to putting her failings out there for the world to see, that makes her such compulsive reading. She has no hesitation in sharing both the ridiculous and sublime, and that’s what women relate to.
“I always think it’s a compliment if someone says ‘Oh My God! You’re living inside my head.!” If I can speak a truth for myself that is also a truth for other women then I’m always really chuffed about that.”
“Because as much as it reassures them when I write about how I can’t stand going to the playground and pushing a swing it also reassures me when they say “Me too! Me too!”
And that’s what draws women to Mia. Yes, she’s beautiful, confident and assured. But you just know that behind the popular website and the polished television persona there’s a woman who spent the morning wiping her toddler’s pooey bottom; or answering her five year old daughter’s billionth question about Disney Princesses; or enduring an embarassed eye roll from her teenage son.
Behind all the trappings of success, she’s just like us.
Mia Culpa is out now and available from all good bookstores.
About the author: Amanda Whitley aka Bugmum runs a little communications business in between wrangling two gorgeous little girls. She’s an ex-public servant who’s also done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign. The time she spent with the wonderful women of Mamamia during her spell as moderator recently inspired her to launch HerCanberra, an ‘online magazine’ for Canberra women. You can find her on Twitter here and Facebook here.
OK, so if you have any questions about the book, leave a comment and I’ll do my best!
*Before you ask, maybe scroll down to see if your question has already been answered and please, only one question per comment!
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