Earlier this year I had the opportunity to adapt and then record my book The Whole Intimate Mess for RNZ. It was an honour, and I’m delighted to share the finished recordings. These were read on air in November 2018. You can listen to all five episodes here.
I’ve been fortunate to have my writing included in three recent books that I want to share. These books all came out in 2018, concern matters very close to my heart (parenting, feminism, mental health) and feature some incredible writers. I’m honoured to be included in each of them, and I hope you’ll check them out. They’d all make great Christmas presents!
Is it Bedtime Yet?
Is it Bedtime Yet? Parenting… the hilarious, the hair-raising, the heart-breaking is an anthology of deeply relatable parenting essays from a range of diverse perspectives, edited by the fabulous Emily Writes (with whom I used to host a podcast). Many of the pieces were first published on The Spinoff’s parenting page, which is where my contribution first appeared. These pieces are so real, reassuring, funny and moving. They’re just what every parent needs when they’re in the thick of it.
Women Now: The Legacy of Female Suffrage is a Te Papa Press publication to mark 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. 12 writers were asked by editor Bronwyn Labrum to respond to an item in the national museum’s collection that related somehow to women or feminism. Mine was a badge saying “Women can do Anything.” I wrote about the birth of my second daughter Ngaire and how my own conviction that I could do anything (everything?) was challenged by motherhood.
The other brilliant writers included are Sue Bradford, Barbara Brookes, Sandra Coney, Golriz Ghahraman, Morgan Godfery, Dame Fiona Kidman, Charlotte MacDonald, Tina Makereti, Ben Schrader, Grace Taylor, and Megan Whelan.
Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety is published by VUP and edited by Naomi Arnold. It features essays by people from all walks of life: poets, novelists, and journalists, musicians, social workers, and health professionals, and aims to tell the real, messy story – what anxiety feels like, what causes it, what helps and what doesn’t. I wrote about my grandmother, Lucy’s experience becoming a mother in the 1950s, and set it alongside my own, describing how my anxiety manifests. An extract from my essay was also published by Fairfax online and in several newspapers.
The other writers in the collection are Danyl McLaughlan, Rebecca Priestley, Sarah Lin Wilson, Zion Tauamiti, Paul Stanley Ward, Aimie Cronin, Michelle Langstone, Kirsten McDougall, Anthony Byrt, Eamonn Marra, Riki Gooch, Donna McLeod, Hinemoana Baker, Bonnie Etherington, Kate Kennedy, Madeline Reid, Kerry Sunderland, Rosemary Mannering, Susan Strongman, Paula Harris, Lee Murray, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Jess McAllen, Allan Drew, Yvette Walker, D.A. Glynn, Meredith Blampied and Julia Rucklidge, Ashleigh Young, Mikey Dam and Tusiata Avia.
In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my sixth post for the blog, a slice of my beautiful, terrifying, sleep-deprived life with a baby and a big girl.
I am deep into the trenches right now. The baby is eight months old, the big girl four-and-a-half. It’s winter. I don’t leave the house much. I don’t get much sleep. There is no time for reflection, considered thought, planning my writing life. But I am writing. 250 words a day. Whatever comes out. It doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t add up to anything. Not yet anyway. But here’s some from last week.
On 19 May 2018 I was honoured to give a graduation address at the University of Otago, my alma mater. The brief was wide, but I was encouraged to think about ‘one thing the graduates would remember for the rest of their lives.’ Daunting. Here is the speech I gave.
My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 was to pose nude for a life drawing class and write about it. The resulting feature was published online and in Your Weekend magazine on 24 March 2018. Excerpt below and you can read it here.
It was a painting by Jacqueline Fahey that finally inspired me to take all my clothes off in a room full of strangers.
Her work Final Domestic Exposé: I Paint Myself depicts the artist nude (body looking much like mine does these days), surrounded by the detritus of her life as an artist and mother – dirty clothes, children, food, gin bottles, medications, paint brushes. I loved it on sight, and I took it as a challenge. If I really thought of my body as beautiful, then why not offer it to artists?
Let them make art from the body of another mother in the middle of the chaos.
On 19 February 2018 I was on RNZ’s Nine to Noon programme reviewing This I Would Kill For by Anne Buist, the third in her ‘Natalie King, Forensic Psychiatrist’ series. You can listen here.
In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my second post for the blog, about writing with a newborn baby. It was first published on 16 November 2017.
I didn’t keep a journal when my first daughter was born four years ago. For the first week, my partner and I kept a notebook recording details of feeds, nappy changes, and the odd piece of commentary: “Day 3: a no good, terrible, horrible, very bad day”; “Day 5: first parental fight, re dates.” Dates the dried fruit, or dates on a calendar? Four years later, I have no idea, and the notebook is no help. Soon after it stops altogether.
On 2 August 2017 I wrote this opinion piece for Stuff in response to Jacinda Ardern’s election as Labour Party leader and the questions she subsequently faced about whether she planned to have children.
When I was a Green MP and pregnant with my first child, former National MP Katherine Rich stood in my office and told me that she would do anything she could to help make the experience I was about to have easier.
She would even, she said, come and hold the baby for me while I worked.
I was taken aback by this generous offer, because I didn’t know her very well.
It seemed like the kind of thing you might offer to your family or close friends, not an acquaintance from a very different political background.
I see now that it was her way of telling me just how hard having a baby while an MP, was going to be. It was very, very hard.
On 22 June 2017 my publishers at Bridget Williams Books put on a delightful launch event for my book The Whole Intimate Mess at Vic Books Pipitea. The incomparable Emily Writes was the guest speaker. Emily spoke beautifully – you can see what she said here. And below is a rough approximation of what I said. It was wonderful to be so supported by family, friends, colleagues and readers. Thank you to everyone who came, and all those who bought a copy.
My book The Whole Intimate Mess: Motherhood, Politics, and Women’s Writing was published by Bridget Williams Books in June 2017. You can find out more and order it here.
I’ve been fortunate to have had wide and generous press coverage of the book, and I’ve collected some of that here. I’m pleased that it has prompted some interesting conversations about women, work, parenthood and mental health.
‘Unacceptable Choices‘, Review by Alison McCulloch, Scoop Review of Books, 14 July 2017.
‘I am ok, and thanks for asking!‘, Interview with Susan Strongman, The Wireless, 6 July 2017.
‘Torn in two: Former Green MP Holly Walker discusses trading Parliament for motherhood‘, Michelle Duff, Sunday magazine, 2 July 2017.
‘A Private Face‘, Sunday TVNZ, 25 June 2017.
‘Holly Walker: The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Simon Sweetman, Off the Tracks, 21 June 2017.
‘Holly Walker – The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Interview with Kim Hill on RNZ, 17 June 2017.
‘Holly Walker – The Whole Intimate Mess‘, Interview with Ryan Bradley on Radio Live, 17 June 2017.
‘You can’t always get everything you want: Deborah Coddington reviews Holly Walker‘, Deborah Coddingham, The Spinoff, 15 June 2017.
‘A brief history of feminist literature in New Zealand: Tessa Duder on her classic novel Alex‘, Tessa Duder, The Spinoff, 14 June 2017.
‘Holly Walker and the books her kid is reading‘, The Sapling, 14 June 2017.
‘‘I really admire that you have been open about mental health as a candidate’: Chlöe Swarbrick in conversation with Holly Walker‘, Chlöe Swarbrick and Holly Walker, The Spinoff, 13 June 2017.
‘‘There is nothing normal about crawling up the hallway, screaming and hitting yourself in the head’: former Green MP Holly Walker shares her story‘, Holly Walker, The Spinoff, 12 June 2017.