Author Brigid Lowry is on a roll. Her new book A Year Of Loving Kindness To Myself and Other Essays has already been endorsed globally; in April, Apple Books listed it as one of its Best Books Of The Month. Considering only 10-20 books are picked out of 250,000, that’s quite an honour!
Self-effacing and warm, with a quirky and original turn of phrase, Brigid had a large audience eating out of her palm at the recent Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival, as she talked about self-acceptance during tough times, her sentiments amplified by guitar-strumming singer Michael Done. Brigid chats to The Starfish:
What made you decide to write this gem?
I wrote it because I am not the only one who struggles with the things I address in the book, such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. I hope the tools I have gathered are useful to other travellers on the highway of life. This book also seems timely, given that we are living in interesting times, with new challenges.
What would you hope readers will get out of it?
I hope that my words will provide some humour and insight into the human condition, as well as offering practical strategies for self-healing, self-compassion, and living through difficulty with grace and wisdom.
Along with the book’s tips on how to cope with life’s challenges, you share some sad personal experiences with us. Did you have any reservations about doing so for this book?
At the time of writing, not so much, but now of course the reading public knows too much about me, and whose fault is that? However, I believe that by sharing our stories, both the sad and the happy ones, we connect with others and with ourselves. Tricky topics get even more tricky when they are hidden.
You talk about cultivating self-care and self-compassion to overcome negative thoughts. What are some key ways you do this?
If I fall in a funk, I like to make a hot beverage and a little snack and say positive encouraging things to myself, such as I am doing my best and it is enough. I may talk to a friend, see my therapist, take a long walk, watch a funny show, draw and write in my journal, read uplifting books or take to my bed with a cosy rug and a pile of good books.
Has your life changed much, for better or worse, during this time of covid; and how so?
I have not been able to visit my extended family in New Zealand for several years and that has been hard, but I hope to see them next summer. Living more quietly has been good in many ways, although not seeing my grandchildren during lockdowns was hard for me, and wearing masks, although necessary, takes the shine off life. Forgoing international and interstate travel has made me more aware of the simple pleasures to be found in the local and the everyday, and saved a lot of fossil fuel.
How many books have you written?
A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself and Other Essaysis my tenth book. The first eight were YA fiction, and this new book, along with Still Life with Teapot: On Zen, Memoir and Creativity,are creative non-fiction for adults. I have also published a fair bit of poetry and short fiction, and had my work included in various anthologies in Australia and New Zealand.
Do you find you improve as a writer with every book?
New skills are learned along the way. Each genre has its own rhythm and demands. My recent work calls upon different parts of me than the YA fiction did. With the teen novels I had fun inventing plots and characters. I also learned to write dialogue and to consider the structure of a full-length work. In my recent books my material is my own life, combined with gathered wisdom, ideas, and humour.
Does it get easier as the years roll past?
As I say in A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself and Other Essays, I have worried about every book I have been writing, and they have all turned out okay.
A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself was recently named as Apple Book Of The Month, one of a handful of books chosen from hundreds of thousands. How did you feel when you got that news?
It was a huge thrill and a big surprise. I had no idea this opportunity could arise, or that I would hit the jackpot, given how slim the chances are. The most heart-warming part was that the reviewer really ‘got’ my book, which is what one hopes for as a writer.
Who are some of your favourite authors, writers who inspire you?
Anne Lamott. Mary Oliver. The Beat poets. Sharon Creech. Gary Snyder. Helen Garner. Jack Kornfield. Natalie Goldberg. Pema Chodron.
You also teach creative writing. When is your next class?
I have a Sacred Ink Writing Workshop planned at Earthwise in Subiaco, on the afternoon of Sunday, July 4. People can contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org if they wish to sign up.
What are you working on now?
Nothing really. Writers, as they say, do not want to write, they want to have written, but I do have a poetry collection and a funny book for children lurking in my depths.