Interview with Clare Bowditch

Clare Bowditch speaks about her book at the Byron Writers Festival

Your Own Kind of Girl: Clare Bowditch In Conversation

Byron Theatre, Community Centre  |  Tuesday  |  6pm  |  $30

Often we see successful people and we think that they’ve never struggled. That somehow their lives were easier than ours. You could be mistaken thinking that about Clare Bowditch – talented, articulate, beautiful. She’s a woman who knows how to command a stage.

She’s a fierce advocate for women in the music industry with her mentoring program Big Hearted Business, she’s a broadcaster with ABC radio and she’s a natural singer and deeply poetic songwriter. As it turns out, she’s also a gifted memoirist. In Your own Kind of Girl Clare tells the story of her childhood – punctuated by grief, anxiety and compulsion – that later went on to shape her life. In her early 20s Clare’s mental health became so precarious she was forced to return home, where she slowly learnt how to navigate her self-doubt, her self-loathing and of course her belligerent inner critic whom she came to call Frank.

At 21 Clare had a profound realisation about the way she was feeling. ‘I realised that it was the story about myself that caused the panic and anxiety. From the moment I knew that, I knew I would recover. I knew that this was a book I was going to write – but I felt like I needed to let time pass so I could slowly, slowly tame my inner critic – so I could pass on what helped me, so that people know they are not alone with their complex grief.’

‘I think a good 20 years has allowed me the luxury to process’ laughs Clare. ‘It’s [writing] not a magic wand!’

In writing this book Clare tells the story of her warm and connected family, who was faced with tragedy when her sister Rowie developed an illness and died. Clare was just 6 years old when this happened and it’s clear in her memoir, and in her reflections, that grief and guilt are tightly intertwined. Clare was aware of this and so worked with a therapist at the time of writing to support the more complex trauma.

‘I speak of the nature of memory and how it is built up of sights and sounds. I took writing this seriously. Often I didn’t know if I had a memory, or I had been told a story or seen a photo. Learning is circular. To love Rowie, I had to let go of my guilt, so I could let her go.’

‘In informing identity we are natural storytellers and we want to belong to a clan. We have shared stories, and we want to tell the truth – to allow for ambiguity and memory, and in the process of writing this, I had to rely on back-up from my beautiful family.

In Your Own Kind of Girl, Clare traces back her sense of exile from her own body when, as a little girl, a boy said she was too big to be a girl. This was a defining moment for her when she suddenly sensed her ‘wrongness’. Even though she was only young, it was the seed of what later became an eating disorder where she fluctuated from thin to fat, experiencing the attention throughout with extreme discomfort. Connecting lovingly to her physical presence in the world is a struggle that Clare openly shares with readers. As a woman, it is profoundly reassuring to know that someone else has felt like that too. Even with body-positive parenting and role models it can be hard to give children a robust love of themselves.

‘We have half a chance for giving our sons and daughters a framework for loving their bodies, but they are up against a world where they don’t always fit – sometimes I am thin and sometimes I am fat – and it’s fine whichever I am.’

This is a heart-breaking, wise and at times playful memoir. Clare’s own story told raw and as it happened. A reminder that even on the darkest of nights, victory is closer than it seems.

With startling candour, Clare lays bare her truth in the hope that doing so will inspire anyone who’s ever done battle with the inner critic. This is the work of a woman who has found her true power – and wants to pass it on.

Byron Writers Festival are presenting ARIA award-winning singer/songwriter Clare Bowditch at the Byron Theatre, 6pm on Tuesday 5 November to talk about Your Own Kind of Girl. The event will include a candid conversation with Dumbo Feather’s Berry Liberman, followed by a live and intimate musical performance.

The event will take place at 6pm, Tuesday 5 November at Byron Theatre. for tickets or call 6685 5115. $30

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