Sometimes I feel like I have only one story I want to tell and that I've spent my whole life finding a way to tell it.
I have been a professional writer since the age of 20 when I enrolled in the Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing at the Council of Adult Education and had my first paid publication opportunity in Voiceworks Journal. I started writing a memoir then, a story about my childhood and my mother's life. About being the daughter of a Bi Polar sufferer and about the hardship that my mother endured being from a Non-English Speaking Background while suffering from a mental illness. I eventually abandoned it, scared off by the raw emotion.
I still wasn't able to be vulnerable in the way that writing a memoir demands, and so The Good Daughter, my first young adult novel was born. My protagonist Sabiha is a Bosnian girl, who grew up in the Western suburbs, and had a mother who is a Bi Polar sufferer. I gave Sabiha my memories, feeling safe in disguising fact with fiction. I launched The Good Daughter into the world with a sigh of relief. I had exorcised my demons and was ready to move on
Then I became a mother in my 30s and all my childhood memories resurfaced. The first few months of being a mother I kept getting flashbacks to my childhood. Ten months after having my daughter I was diagnosed with post natal depression. As always writing was my saviour. I had no choice but to write a memoir, but how? It was a journey that took seven years and sometimes turned me inside out.
Getting published is always a dream, but getting my memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me published feels even more special. This memoir honours my mother and the hardship she has endured. I am so happy that Transit Lounge will publish my memoir in 2019 and I look forward to sharing my publication journey with you.
Mum and Me
Things Nobody Knows But Me blurb
Things Nobody Knows But Me is the story of a bond between mother and daughter, and of the toll that mental illness takes on an individual, a family and a community. It is also an insight into Bosnian culture, and more broadly the experience of mental illness for people who come from non-English speaking backgrounds.
I was sixteen when my wagging caught up to me and I ended up in my high school counsellor’s office, and I finally learnt the medical label for the malady that had dogged my mother and affected my childhood. I had spent my whole life calling my mother’s illness a Nervous Breakdown, now I found out that my mother suffered from a mental illness called Bipolar Disorder.
In adolescence I became my mother’s confidante and learnt the extraordinary story of her life: when she was fifteen years old she visited family friends only to find herself in an arranged marriage. At sixteen she was a migrant, a mother, and a mental patient.
Things Nobody Knows But Me is about a mother-daughter-bond fractured by years of manic and depressive episodes, marked by powerful changes in mood and energy, that was eventually brought under control through an accurate medical diagnosis.
I was funded by Creative Victoria to be mentored by Alice Pung in developing this book. Excerpts have been published in anthologies: ‘School of Hard Knocks’ in the upcoming anthology Meet me at the Intersection (Fremantle Press, 2018), ‘Nervous Breakdown’ was published in Rebellious Daughters anthology, (Ventura Press, 2016), and ‘Woman on Fire’ in Etchings journal (Illura Press, 2013).
Previous blog posts about writing my memoir
Telling Mum my memoir is getting published
It was a very long journey to get my memoir published and there was one person I really wanted to tell the news to. My mum. I was so wrapped I had to film it so I have the memory forever.
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Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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