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Q & A with Michelle
How did the idea for writing inner riches – an autistic woman's story of love & motherloss come about?
After my mother died, I searched for grief books on the loss of a mother, and while reading one of them, the author suggested ways to cope with grief. One of those suggestions was to "write your own book." I would not waver from the idea. It became a necessity for me, and I knew I had a story to tell, a story that, in benefiting me, might help other grieving daughters.
How did you write the book?
Time saw me realise the architecture of the book. Beyond that, if I was reflecting, I wrote in stages. Otherwise, as my grieving process unfolded, I told the story in real-time.
Do you find writing about your feelings easy?
People on the autism spectrum can feel so profoundly that we are often overwhelmed by our emotions and cannot function through them. For me, writing is my way in and my way out.
Did you take notes?
After midnight, upon waking, when mowing, peeling carrots. Often the most poignant of realisations strike when I’m going about my daily life and not when I’m in the act of writing.
Where did your writing take place?
Being the driver in my marriage (the car driver), I occasionally wrote in Sydney’s domain car park while my partner attended a work engagement. Otherwise, most of the writing happened at home with my late cat, Levi, no more than a few feet from me.
How long did it take to write your book?
Six years. The book evolved as I evolved.
What did your partner think of your writing regimen?
If Sonia were a tree, she’d be a weeping willow, well-grounded but able to bend in the wind.
Do you have a favourite book?
Suppose I had to choose a story based on how it moved me, ‘Emma & I,’ with EMMA & CO by Sheila Hocken, and ‘Tim’ by Colleen McCullough. As for the author who entertained me most, Rue McClanahan’s ‘My First Five Husbands… And The One’s Who Got Away’ is the type of book that can be read many times. Many, many times. Dedicated fans of The Golden Girls might recognise that line.
A favourite movie?
Two goodies that couldn’t be more different: “The talented Mr Ripley,” starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law, and “Normal,” starring Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson. The movie that continually intrigues me is the 1991 film “Cape Fear,” a crime/psychological thriller directed by Martin Scorsese. It was one of the first films that explored the boundary between what is morally right and what is legally right.
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Then, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” Albert Einstein.
What do photography and gardening mean to you?
As distinct as they are from each other, photography and gardening give me great gratification. Combined, I discover the wonder and mystery of being - that is ever-changing. I enjoy capturing life's simple miracles.
Will you reveal three family facts?
One: In 1956, my late mother competed against and came third to swimming Olympian Dawn Fraser. Two: my Aunt, Irene Waugh, was an outstanding mezzo-soprano who sang and acted in numerous stage operas. Three: my late paternal Grandfather, Hendrikus Riksman, a Dutch pilot, flew with Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.
What are you grateful for right now?
I’ll pick something: my relationship with my spouse, Sonia. Even though we’ve been together for twenty-five years, we talk over coffee every morning like we’ve just met each other.
Since launching inner riches, what has affected you most?
How the book has been received. How moved and changed people are by it has made an emotional impact on me. In my world, no feeling outshines helping another.
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