The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Mother Zen
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born and raised in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire (known simply as ‘The Shire’) as one of six kids in a suburb called Yowie Bay, but I went to high school in the eastern suburbs commuting an hour-and-a-half in each direction. Train time was reading time.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Actress, journalist, writer. That was the order of my desires and it still goes back and forth. From as long as I can remember I wanted to be an actor taking myself off to acting classes on weekends and summer holidays, but I also wrote stories and dreamed one day of writing a book. I settled on a career in journalism because I decided it was the ideal combination of my two passions. I have always been fascinated by other people’s lives so I get to delve into those – as a journalist and a writer.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That love will last forever. My first love was a beautiful boy and my best friend who died suddenly just shy of my 19th birthday. I learnt quickly that the rug can be pulled out from under you at any moment, and have been wary of complacency ever since.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
1. Reading as a child got the whole ball rolling. I am certain of that. My mother would read to us often (with six of us it was collective story time) and we were always given books as presents, a stack at the end of the bed from Santa every Christmas. I still have several of my favourite books today which I am now reading to my boys: The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly (Pixie O’Harris), The Little Black Princess (Mrs Aeneas Gunn) and Dot and The Kangaroo (Ethel Pedley), for example.
2. Losing my first love. I was already studying journalism when Simon died, so I was on the path, but my life changed forever in that moment. In my grief I decided to make the most of this life and make it mean something so the pain wouldn’t be for nothing. I’m sure the experience also made me understand people at a deeper level. I am not afraid of other people’s heartache or suffering: handy stuff for a journalist and writer of any sort.
3. I had been working as a journalist for several years when I decided to do a ‘writing course’. Even though I got the opportunity to write scripts on a daily basis as a TV Reporter (at that stage with ABC’s 7:30 Report), I yearned to be more creative. So I did a ‘Life Writing’ workshop with Patti Miller and it was like a light went on. Patti believes we all have a story in us, something to share with others, and I found so did I.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
Nothing will ever replace holding a real life book in your hand as you kick back and devour it. I work in all the other media (I’m a TV journalist — a News Presenter with Sky, I write for newspapers — Columnist for Sunday Life, and I have a blog), so I don’t shy away from them and they certainly have their place but, as a writer with a chunk of information to impart, books are still the ideal format. I couldn’t say all I needed to say in a blog. Not in one go. I know I’m behind on this but I’m yet to read an e-book. I can only stare at a computer screen for so long. Even when I’m reading online — a newspaper or blog — I usually print the pages out so I have the hard copy version instead. As for TV, the first question when we’re considering a story is always “Do we have vision?” The written word gets around that tricky problem of having no pictures.
I wrote Mother Zen because I wanted to read it. When I became a mother (to two little boys) I was surprised to find it as enjoyable and rewarding as I do because most of the literature about motherhood is negative. There are some really helpful and insightful advice books out there, but the predominant message is that being a mother is a tough and thankless task that must be endured. I wanted to balance that out a bit, to explore why so many parents find it a challenge and see if there’s a way to shift that. Maybe it’s up to us and not our circumstances.
The book is part memoir about my fledgling journey as a new mother, but it also weaves in interviews with parenting experts and other parents.
It is also a look at an alternative way of being — to be present and grateful — as we negotiate the often overwhelming new role we find ourselves in, being responsible for the life of another and so often without the ‘village’ we were promised it would take to raise our child.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
That all mums, no matter what their circumstances, could access the utter joy that’s available to us all.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
My mother. For bringing six of us into the world and keeping it all (and us all) together.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
My ambition has changed course dramatically since I became a mother. I used to be distractingly hungry for the next thing and what I had going on was never enough. Now, my greatest goal is to be a good mother to my boys — loving, present, available, a solid role model, someone they will always trust and turn to. I want to inspire them (as a mother and a woman) and guide them and raise them to have empathy and emotional intelligence. “I am your constant,” I say to them. I’m well aware that no matter what we do as a parent we won’t always get it right. But my greatest hope is that with that foundation they can fly.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
- Write. I didn’t even know what I wanted to write when I started writing, I just knew I had to. I had been a journalist for several years so I got to write every day, but I wanted to be more creative, only I wasn’t sure how to go about that.
- So, I took a writing course (also highly recommended for aspiring writers, no matter how good you are) which ‘forced’ me to deliver copy. And from that came the inklings of my first book.
- Also good writers observe. We all see the same things but it’s writers who see meaning in them.
- Take notes. Write down ideas, random thoughts, quotes, simple moments. We think we’ll remember but we a rarely do. It’s those notes (tapped into my i-Phone with my thumb) that ‘saved’ me when I was given only five months to write Mother Zen. Much of the research had already been done.
Jacinta, thank you for playing.
by Jennifer Niven
In 2010 Jacinta Tynan innocently sparked a media storm when her article in the Sun Herald exposed a fault line in our perception of motherhood. Her premise — that motherhood could be easy — split the parenting community down the middle. Many agreed with Jacinta while others argued that motherhood was arduous and thankless, all were equally passionate in their beliefs.
Four years later, now with two small children, Jacinta takes us on a fascinating journey through her own experiences of motherhood — from being so sick with her first pregnancy that she was throwing up in between her on-air segments, to her doubts about her ability to cope — and shows us her struggle to parent ‘consciously’, using meditation and attempting mindfulness to help her more…
About the Author
Jacinta is a well-known news presenter, author and columnist. She regularly writes opinion pieces for national newspapers and frequently appears as a guest commentator on a number of television networks across the country. She is also the author of Good Man Hunting, and edited the anthology Some Girls Do: My Life as a Teenager with royalties donated to SISTER2Sister, a mentor program for teenage girls for whom Jacinta is patron. Tynan lives in Sydney with her partner and two young sons.