We have another published author in our midst!
Local resident, journalist, artist and former Booktopia editorial director Caroline Baum has spent the past five years working on her memoir ‘Only’, and now can add ‘author’ to her impressive list of titles, because the book is on the shelves!
Caroline credits the Northern Illawarra region with providing the headspace to write her book.
“My husband David is a screenwriter,” says Caroline. “We were living in Sydney when we were awarded residencies at Bundanon. We got so much done in three weeks without all the distractions of city life we sold up and moved to Wombarra!
“I’m a city girl, originally from London, and I’m convinced I couldn’t have written this book if we hadn’t moved to the Northern Illawarra. I love that it’s generally quiet, and I love going for daily beach walks and finding this different rhythm.
“That’s probably why this area is so popular with creative people,” she says. “It affords you a distance from distraction.”
Caroline says she’s always wanted to be a writer. “I thought I wanted to be a novelist and I probably still secretly do,” she laughs, “but you have to go with your chops, so memoir is my entry point. I felt I had a distinctive story to tell.”
Caroline is an only child and both her parents have unusual back stories, which made for a fascinating upbringing.
“My mother was the victim of extreme domestic violence,” she says. ” When she was five my grandfather shot my grandmother, and then shot himself, in broad daylight in the streets of Paris. My father escaped the holocaust as a child and, as a 10 year old Jewish boy, was fostered into an English family. I wanted to tell these stories. That’s pretty heavy baggage and at some point you have to let them go.
“When you hit 50 you want to declutter your life.. This book is the equivalent of throwing things away.”
However Caroline says sharing so many secrets does feel a bit like walking around naked.
“A lot of the stories in the book were hard to tell,” she says. “but when you’re writing you forget how revealing you’re being. “People keep telling me I’m brave and I do think ‘Only’ is a little braver than I intended.
“I’m pretty blunt and I think I’ve applied that bluntness to my own story so I’ve been as honest as I can, and the result is unflinching.
But Caroline says ‘Only’ isn’t a misery memoir. “I had a fortunate upbringing,” she says. “The book is a complex, multi-layered story about what it’s like to live in a triangle with your mother and father and all the expectations that are placed on being the only child in that family.
A journalist and broadcaster with too many credits to list, Caroline writes about food, life and art, but mainly about authors and books. In fact, she was Booktopia’s editorial director, but says nothing prepared her for the rigours of writing your own book..
“Writing a novel is like running a marathon,” says Caroline. “When you’re a journalist you pump out stories so the satisfaction comes quickly. Writing a novel certainly tests your stamina!
“I love the fact I have done it. I have written 80,000 words, 300 pages! I know I can go the distance so the second book will be easier!”
When she’s not writing, Caroline clears her head with a long walk. It was during a visit to the beach she discovered the beautiful patterns in rock pools made by shellfish. A series of photographs followed, then an exhibition which has since lead to her images being turned into gorgeous silk and woollen rugs (www.designerrugs.com.au). You can read more about that HERE
What’s next on the agenda?
“I won a fellowship a couple of years ago to write a biography. That’s the next cab off the rank. I’m only 15,000 words in, but I know what I’m meant to be doing and there’s security in that.
- I get my coffee from Bread Espresso& in Thirroul. I love their best bread and coffee and I love that they know my name and remember my coffee order. Plus you always run into someone you know.
- For dinner we choose Eat at Sandys. Amazing flavours, fantastic quality and a relaxed vibe. I’ve actually been following these guys since they started Sandy Good Witch and I’ll eat anything they prepare!
- I love the cheese counter at IGA. I think it’s changed local people’s lives! When it first opened, nobody could believe there was cheese from Italy and France in Thirroul. It’s taken things to a new level!
- But my most important local collaborator is The Photo Fixer, David Corbett. He operates behind Finbox and he’s a whiz with photo repair and restoration. It was David who told me what I needed to to to improve my images and now I have rugs made of my work! He’s my secret weapon!
Portrait thanks to Wendy McDougall