In Conversation with Lucy Moffatt

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of sitting down for an interview with Lucy Moffatt, author of Some Days. Over a cup of coffee, she delved into the process, emotion and the power of female friendship in her memoir. Written as a last conversation with her best friend, Chelsea, who she lost to cancer in 2016, Moffatt explores their friendship, immortalising Chelsea and finding a way to heal from such a devastating loss.

You describe your memoir as “one last long, winding chat with the memory of your best friend.” What was the catalyst for writing it this way?

I initially wrote my first manuscript in the traditional memoir style and it was okay, and I think I could have made something pretty good out of it. I can’t really remember how the idea came to me and at one stage I thought ‘what if I change this?’. Instead of talking about Chelsea, I addressed her directly. About the same time, I felt that I’d like to include her writing in the story. Once I started rewriting it that way, it was like the heart of the story suddenly came to life. I’d been struggling a lot with feeling like ‘oh this is so self-indulgent,’ writing a memoir. Like who cares?

Reframing it as a last conversation with her really brought out what I wanted the book to be. That’s what our friendship was. Especially those last few years when she was really sick, it was just sitting in her bed, with the T.V. on in the background and just chatting all day. It felt really good once I started to evoke that.

Two big concepts that came up in Some Days were regret and vulnerability. Could you talk about that a little bit?

For me vulnerability came first. There was this really clear idea that I could go one of two ways. I could try to run away from the things I was feeling and try to conceal it. Or I could take a deep breath and turn around and face it. And the way I thought I could do that was to try and be vulnerable and be publicly vulnerable. To ask for help and to talk about how I was feeling and more and more I started to feel like that could be the source of my strength. I could make something beautiful out of what I’ve been through.

The regret thing took a lot longer. It took a long time for me to feel like it was okay to say I made a mistake and I regret that. It’s so taboo and even now people are like: ‘oh no, no don’t say that you did what you had to do’, but the outcome was really awful. That was my call, and I made the wrong call and I have to own up to that. That was a chapter I wrote quite late, I don’t think it was until the third draft that I even wrote about regret because it was such a massive hard thing to tackle.

It’s the first time in my life that I could say I was in the wrong, but also be kind to myself about that not haranguing myself about it, not punishing myself for it.

You say in the epilogue that you put “our” story down, and you did this through Chelsea’s blog posts. How important was it for you, to have Chelsea’s own voice in your book?

As soon as I had the idea, [her words] were the thing that made it all hang in the balance. If I couldn’t include Chelsea’s words, then there was no point in writing the memoir.

She was a good writer, it wasn’t that she wanted to be a writer. I like her voice and I know she would have loved to be in print that way. Part of it was being a loyal friend. I also knew it gave an edge and a strength to the book.

You also touch on some very personal yet common issues such as mental health, the struggle to fit in, and sexuality. How important was it for you to record these difficulties you had growing up?

Initially, when I started writing it, I wasn’t going to write about anything separate from Chelsea. As I was writing I was realising how these other things fed into the grief I was feeling and into my friendship with Chelsea. One of the reasons our trust and our love and our friendship ran so deep was because being with her was like being apart from some of the things I faced growing up. We just accepted one another.

This experience of losing my friend is fairly specific, some people experience this loss, but these other things are quite universal. Lots of people don’t fit in. Lots of people struggle with who they are. Lots of people have difficulty accepting themselves. And if I’m writing about something so vulnerable, that I want to share, why not be vulnerable and use my voice?

You talk about positive female friendship and that it wasn’t until you got into your twenties that you were able to understand and grasp that. How important do you think it is to have these representations of positive female friendship?

Art can represent life as it is and represent life in a way that it can be. I’m speaking for myself here, but I have a tendency to emulate what I saw on screen, or what I read in books. If I was watching Gossip Girl my friendships were very different to what they were supposed to be. I love that quote: you can’t be what you can’t see. I really believe in role models and I really believe in representations of all kinds. Particularly with positive female friendships.

What was the personal transformation you feel you underwent while writing this book?

I think, what really shone out for me once I got towards finishing the book, was that I always wanted to be a writer, and I’d had some quite good ideas over the years but never followed through on them. I thought that was some kind of personal failing on my part like ‘oh you can’t focus’ or ‘you don’t have what it takes’. I think all it was, was that I had all growing up to do. I needed to work out what I have to say and how I want to say it. And to reach a point of self-acceptance where I can comfortably believe that what I have to say is valid and valuable. I think that was the biggest thing, learning how to put [my doubts] to the side and believe in what I’m doing.

Because it’s a memoir, I got to know myself a lot better. There were lots of things I wasn’t going to write about until I realised they’re all interconnected and that was really freeing. All of these things impact me and have impacted me. They are just a part of my journey and that’s important.

Do you have any events coming up that people reading should, know about?

I’m getting to do a podcast, called Just Make the Thing. We’ll be talking books, but really the podcast is about creativity and doing the work. We’re going to talk about how creativity can be a way to cope with grief.

If you could say anything to someone who was about to pick up your book what would you like the say to them?

Firstly, most of the feedback has been to keep tissues handy, because it’s sad. But I don’t just think it’s sad but kind of funny and some parts are neutral.

My big message is really to allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be connected to people. Those two things are wells of strength that are far too often overlooked. That we’re stronger together than alone. Don’t be afraid of those big, scary feelings because they’re a part of it, they’re a part of all of us. It can be a source of strength if you allow it to be.

I want to say to anyone who is terminally ill, or who loves someone who is sick or who has just lost a loved one, or to those people who are struggling with mental health or self-acceptance, that whatever you are feeling is okay! Even the big, terrible emotions are fine and normal, and they do pass. And you are loved! There are so many people who want only to see you happy and at peace. Again, vulnerability and connection give us power and strength.


Words by Georgina Banfield

I Hate Cheesy-Romance Films. I Don’t Hate 10 Things I Hate About You.

10 Things I Hate About You is the best thing to come out of the 90’s.

I’m biased. I fully admit it.

I don’t like cheesy rom-coms because they bore me. But Ten Things I Hate About You isn’t like other rom-coms and you can pry it off my laptop hard drive from under my cold dead body. I’m making the assumption that you’ve watched this movie – but if you haven’t, do yourself a favour and see it. No one can argue with its engrossing story, excellent soundtrack, great cast, and the dynamite duo of 90’s Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.

Ledger wears shiny pants, Stiles gets covered in paint and laughs about it – my uselessly bisexual self can’t handle it. I watched this movie so many times that my plan for an ideal date still revolves around the idea of spontaneous paintball that ends with us rolling around in the hay kissing. Don’t ask me how you can plan ‘spontaneous’ paintball, I’ve never worked that out.

When Valentine’s Day rolls around, with its inevitable emphasis on watching romantic films with your significant other, I always get to thinking about what a ‘romantic’ film actually is for me – beyond, of course, the self-insertion wish-fulfilment appeal of watching attractive people fall in love on a screen.

I think what draws me to the paintball scene is not the actual paintball or the kissing, but rather what the paintball and the kissing represent. It’s a moment between two people who let themselves be vulnerable idiots for and with each other. Throughout the film, we see Kat and Patrick fall for each other, making themselves vulnerable and finding that they’re accepted and understood by one-another.

It’s impossible to go on without mentioning the scene where Patrick hijacks the announcement system to perform ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ for Kat on the bleachers, complete with band accompaniment and dorky-fun dance moves. It’s a funny, cheesy, dumb-ass act and by no means is it a moment of swooning violins. But it works as a romantic gesture because of the vulnerability implicit in this act of ‘sacrificing himself on the altar of dignity’. There’s something real sexy about someone making a fool of themselves to make you laugh; making themselves vulnerable for you and hoping that you embrace and accept this part of them. There’s also something real sexy about Ledger’s singing, but that’s a given.

Arguably, it’s the mutual act of seeing and being seen by one another that allows for Patrick and Kat’s paint balling scene. It doesn’t matter that they act foolish in front of one another in this scene, because it’s already been done in front of everyone else. Patrick and Kat can just be in the paint balling scene – they don’t have to worry about maintaining the pretences and walls that everyone has one some level. They’re just two people throwing paint, rolling in hay, and falling in love. Now that’s what I call romance.

Romance is more than just the funny easy parts though, it’s also emotional vulnerability – and there is no better moment of emotional vulnerability that the titular scene where Kat reads her poem to Patrick in front of the entire class. It would be easy for Patrick to scoff, to maintain his image and security by mocking her feelings. But he doesn’t. In that moment he sees her (metaphorically) laid bare and completely accepts her. Her vulnerability is embraced and then returned with his own. It kills me every time.

If I ask for nothing else within romance, I ask to be accepted in my vulnerability. It might lack the passions of Pride and Prejudice or the high-drama of The Notebook but 10 Things portrays this so well. Forget angsty speeches in the rain or sexually charged touches. People letting themselves be vulnerable and not thinking of how they’ll look doing dumb stuff with the other person is where it’s at in romance. Bury me in roses and call me Cupid, because that melts me into a little puddle of goo. If, like me, you hate cheesy cliches but you want to watch an appropriately valentine-y movie, then crack open some hay bales and don your best 90’s clothing because 10 Things I Hate About You is calling your name.


 

Words by Taeghan Buggy