I was the first child of young rural parents. We moved houses every few months, not because it was important to be “comfortable with change,” as my mother insisted, but because we were fleeing rent debt.
When in grade 8, I invited a friend over for a playdate after school. We walked home, let ourselves in, threw our school bags down and hungry as squirrels after the thaw, dashed to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Nothing. The bread bin––nothing. The pantry cupboard––nothing. I mean––nothing. No bread. No leftovers. No milk or sugar for tea. No tea. With every barren cupboard, my heart thrashed harder against my chest. My neck and face burned with humiliation and feelings of unworthiness.
That day I set the most profound intention of my life. I would do whatever it takes to get a college education and go on to become an author. At that young age, I believed that writing would be my way to make sense of my world and to understand my fear, stress and longing and help me heal.
I got my first job the day after I turned 13. Told my future employer I was 15 (only a year younger than the legal employment age). I was tall and had confidence in my lie. I’ll never forget the tinge of pity in Gino’s bulgy hazelnut eyes when he agreed to train me up as a waitress in his Italian Restaurant, by the same name. I worked three shifts a week – Thursday night, Saturday lunch and Sunday lunch. I saved every cent towards a down payment a college education––the key ingredient to, not only escaping poverty, but getting closer to my dream of becoming a writer.
One Friday evening at the age of fourteen, Irving Stone’s book, The Passions of the Mind, somehow found its way into my life. For those of you not familiar, the book is a biographical novel about Sigmund Freud and his passion to liberate people from what he called “the blindfolds and chains of their unknown natures.” The book extolls Freud’s basic premise that “some of our most exciting challenges aren’t met on the battlefields or mountain peaks, but inside our hearts and minds.”
The book assaulted me, dragged me in by the collar, and didn’t let me go until I’d read the very last author’s acknowledgement. Here comes the important part––its 808 pages long.
I’ll never forget that holiday weekend. Not only had I successfully read a whole book, I’d also read a difficult hard-core tome about psychology, neuroscience, the ego, the id and Europe in the 1800s.
And you know what? I loved it and it changed my life.
I topped up my Psychology and Literature degrees with a post-graduate course in Marketing and Communications and got my first job in advertising at Ogilvy as a copywriter. The three years at Ogilvy taught me the importance of craftsmanship. I learned that it’s not about the writing, but the rewriting. Under the mentorship of some of the best creative minds in the country, I liberated my latent OCD perfectionism. I learned the importance of producing outstanding quality work, no matter how large or small.
My time at TBWA, taught me how to compete in a breakneck creative environment. It was dazzle or die. Surprise or sink. You’re only as good as your last award. At TBWA, I learned how to create and execute top draw creativity at an accelerated pace. And how nice it is to win awards. And won loads of them.
FCB taught me about leadership and the value of developing a singleminded big idea. I headed up a small creative team, and we did some remarkable work. Here I got a feel for international metal, as my team and I won various Cannes Lions and Clio’s, not to mention local awards for creativity.
In 2006 I met my husband and business partner, and we founded our agency which has grown into one of the most reputable communications agencies in the region. All the years we’ve had our business, my husband has encouraged me to follow my dream to write books.
I wake up with the birds at about 4 AM, sometimes earlier in the Summer months. The time before dawn––before my daughter wakes up and before my Great Dane starts nagging for a walk––is my most creative and productive time of the day.
The idea of a boy trapped in a cave with a Monk nudged me to be written. I tried to write it a couple of times but didn’t get far. When I changed the boy to a young Asian-American girl, the story took off, galloping away with me, my fingers barely able to keep up. I felt like the vehicle transporting the story onto the page. Found and Lost was a story that had to be told.
Writing Found and Lost changed my life as it is more than one book. It has developed a series of inspirational, funny, outrageous adventures that take the reader on a journey of self-discovery and transformation. Writing the Great Way series is a gift and an honor, and I have heartful gratitude to a handful of angels who kept me on the path.
Should you ever run into me, you’ll find me armed with several books. One in my handbag, several on my phone, and a stack next to my bed waiting for my love and attention. Reading was my first love and has been the most significant fuel for my writing. For every hour I write, I do my best to read for an hour.
Some of my favorite reads include,
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