Monthly Archives: June 2010

Bra vs Boob

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The only item of clothing designed specifically to accentuate back fat is the brassiere and for a woman at the peak of her post-baby body blues, buying one is never going to be easy.

Alas, only two weeks after the birth of my child, I was in dire need of the kind of support my wardrobe simply could not provide. I had managed to scrounge a number of what I thought were well-fitting maternity bras from those bags of maternity clothes that make the rounds from friend to friend and I thought I was set. But nobody warned me that it was perfectly feasible that a 14C could become a 16E overnight, so a trip to the bra-section was unavoidable.

It was my first day out since baby’s arrival. I knew the purpose of the outing had the potential to be emotionally scarring, so I gave myself every chance of feeling good – I shaved my legs and my under-arms, I brushed my hair, put on some nice earrings and even applied some eye-makeup! But the tremmors in my stomach started as soon as I stepped into the maternity aisle. This was not going to be fun. I scratched the back fat that bulged below my bra strap, a nervous habit I seemed to have picked up somewhere along the pregnancy line.

Bone and grandmotherly, white and grandmotherly, black and grandmotherly.  Not exactly spoiled for choice! I carefully selected one of each in varing monster-sizes and sucked in a deep breath. My husband, baby strapped to his proud chest, gave me a thumbs up with a “I don’t know what you’re so worried about” look. The department store changeroom is the only place on earth where it is impossible to hide, but I went in, prepared to see every roll, every wrinkle, every damned blemish in microscopic, neon-lit detail.

I hung my selection on the hook labelled “maybe” and threw my top on the floor, trying to avoid my reflection and choosing, rather, to focus on the shiny new bindings before me. I decided to go from largest to smallest, thereby maximising my chances of having to go down a size. We all know how upsetting it is to have to go out and get the next size up – not only are you not as skinny as the waif-manneqins and the pre-pubescent teen that works there, but you also realise that you have deluded yourself into thinking you are smaller than you really are. No, my fragile confidence could not take such a battering. I would try on the grossly oversized “slimming black” bra first.

I prepped it, loosening the bungie-cord shoulder straps. I unclipped the six hooks at the back and wondered how many more would make it a corset. I reached back and unclipped the two that had a tenuous hold on my daggy old number and let it drop to the floor.

“Shit!” My breast pads dropped to the floor with it. “My last ones,” I thought and wondered how dirty the floor really was, whether I could get away with reusing them… But before I could stoop to pick them up I was possessed by a burning.

“Oh, God, no. Not now. Fucking boobs!”

Let down. Super-soaker style. 5 jets from each nipple on maximum thrust sprayed the change cubicle mirror as my horrified expression disappeared behind a veil of milky droplets.

I scrambled for my bra all the while spraying the bench, the floor, my jeans… I clasped one arm over my chest and the milk continued to pour in small rivulets down my stomach as I frantically tried to contain the offending parts in my old hand-me-down. I pressed those pads without a thought to hygene. I needed to stem the flow! I needed to put those self-starters back in their packaging! I needed to get out of the spotlights staring down on my humiliation!

When I emerged, flustered, with bra selection in hand, my husband looked surprised.

“That was quick! Success?” he asked with a bright glow.

“Um, no,” I said, glaring at the pretty teens who were oooo-ing and aaahhh-ing at the baby strapped to my husband’s chest. He was loving the attention. I could just hear him thinking, “this is better than a puppy!”

I scratched the roll of back fat that, squeezed by my bra-strap, now rested on my muffin-top.

“No, no success today.”

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I’m even cleverer

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Here they are: the two articles that amount to the most outrageous coup in unknown-author-flogging-own-book-and-trying-to-raise-profile history!

Enjoy!

“Welcome to Life in the Harsh Lane”

“Why a Good Fit with Coach is Crucial”

I’m so clever

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Lauren Daniels interviewed Nadine Neumann about her memoir Wobbles.
From IP eNews


LD:
 According to several sports icons, including John Konrads and Duncan Armstrong, and the IP Picks judges, Wobbles is no ordinary sporting memoir. This narrative spans the growth of an athlete from a young girl into a fierce, Olympic competitor; but it also brings something else to the reader. How would you describe the additional elements that make this book more holistic and appealing for a wide audience?
NadineN
NN:
 WhenI began writing Wobbles I knew that I wanted to write a story, not just an account of my trials and triumphs in the pool. I wanted to capture the voice of the little girl with a dream, the angry teenager facing obstacles, the maturing young woman on a mission and the lost soul at the end of her career. I wanted these voices to speak directly to the audience so they could learn and grow and experience the journey along with Nadine. So I employed all the literary skills I had learned through my love of literature and my English teaching to try to bring this story to life. It is honest; the language reflects the character ateach stage of development and the structure takes the reader into the world of the competitor in a way that I believe is quite unique for a sports memoir. My swimming journey was not one that ended in the glorious victories that so often characterise such memoirs and I believe that this very fact enables the reader to connect with the story in an intimate way, a way that I hope will shed some light on their own situations.

LD:
An Australian breaststroke swimmer in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, you are now a successful educator and motivational speaker. Wobbles reflects a desire to encourage not only the next generation of athletes and their families, but anyone with a dream. Tell us about the memoir’s themes of setting goals and pursuing dreams against the backdrop of harsher realities.

NN:
My ‘little girl dream’ of going to the Olympic Games was innocent of the trials ahead and I am so grateful that my parents, no matter how amused they were by my ideas at the time, never dampened my enthusiasm. If I had said that I wanted to be an astronaut or a dancer or a collector of bugs they would have supported me and I think this is the most important ingredient in making a dream come true – someone to believe in you when you forget how to believe in yourself. I faced some enormous obstacles and I sometimes doubted that pursuing my Wobblesdream was really worthwhile, but with the help of my family I was able to reassess my goals, adjust them, break them into manageable ‘baby steps’ and get back on track. And in the end, despite perhaps not achieving my ultimate dream, I was able to realise that the strength, discipline, self-confidence and courage that I had developed as a result of all those years of striving was reward enough. I guess that’s why I’m now pursuing a new dream – the journey is always worth the effort in the end.

LD:
One of the most substantial themes of this book wrestles with contemporary definitions of success. At a time when achievement can be associated with material, fleeting or superficial qualities, what are some of the deeper messages you would like readers to consider?

NN:
So often the people we look up to as role models are the superstars that achieve things beyond many of our wildest dreams and when mere mortals fall short of those lofty ambitions, we can be left feeling cheated, or worse still, like a failure. It took me a long time to learn that success is about striving and growing and fearlessly looking challenges in the face regardless of the outcome. It is this message that I hope readers will take from my story: the idea that striving for a beautiful, exciting goal, no matter what it may be, is worthwhile for its own sake. Whatever riches, accolades or fame may come is icing on the cake, but just being there and giving it a shot is what really makes you a success. It can be hard to remember this when the media only reports on the ‘winners’, when ‘losers’ are chastised and threatened with being dropped from their teams, when the big sponsorships go to the record-breakers and when the only pictures in glossy magazines are of the ‘golden’ girls and boys. But I believe the people who are always there, doing their best, working on improving themselves, are the true heroes. They are the people I cheer for.

LD:
You mentioned that Wobbles is the product of ten years of writing and editing. What has drafting and revising been like for you? How have you managed to get through the endurance trials of creating a good, solid story? 

NN:
Drafting and re-drafting has been an amazing experience. Initially my writing was a purging process, an opportunity to vent all my frustrations, past hurts and demons. What emerged was extremely cathartic, but completely unreadable! I put this first draft aside for almost two years before I braved a second shot at it and I was amazed to find how much my view of events had changed with a little distance. Over the next eight years I found that each time I revisited the book, I learned something new about myself. I was able to heal deep wounds and find a sense of peace and satisfaction with my achievements. It has almost been as though refining my self-indulgent, sentimental drivel into a solid, entertaining read has allowed me to shape a clearer perspective on my personal history. The last phases of editing with the help of some amazing critical readers has taught me an enormous amount about writing and I’ve realised how much I still don’t know about the art! Overall, it has been challenging and at times overwhelming, but like every great dream, it has been worth every minute.

LD:
As a wife and mother living in Maitland in New South Wales, what were some of the writing resources which supported you through this process? Have you got any tips for writers?

NN:
I’ve received an enormous amount of help from the New South Wales Writers Centre through their mentorship program, short courses and newsletters. I’d recommend every writer connect with their local writers’ centres. I have also drawn great inspiration from writers who have shared their approaches to the craft. Books like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Stephen King and Finding the Secret River by Kate Grenville have reminded me that even the masters get blocked, feel unsure, face rejection and self criticise to the point of despair. I’m also often pressed for time with a busy one year-old to keep entertained, so I do most of my writing in my mind on car trips, during feeding time, while preparing dinner or folding nappies. And when silence finally descends upon the house and I find myself paralysed by the inner critic, I try to remember that the important thing is to get something down, anything down, because you can always fix it later… either before or after your critical readers have told you that it needs ‘a bit’ of work!

LD:
Writing a memoir often alters the way we perceive ourselves. How has writing Wobbles changed the way you see yourself, your journey and the people around you?

NN:
Wobbles has changed everything. I have been forced to recognise and change destructive thought and behaviour patterns. I have been challenged to see my life from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve learned to appreciate the gifts and the trials in equal measure and I feel that my life is so much richer for it. I have realised that there is no hurt that cannot be healed with the right help and that gazing at one’s navel long enough does indeed reveal profound truths, metaphorically speaking! I have found my new passion, a path I can envisage treading for the rest of my days, and I have been given the chance to pursue my writing with the unwavering support of family and friends. But best of all, my publisher proved that miracles do happen – when the world told me that a book about an unknown swimmer would never find a place on the shelves, IP came along and said ‘Yes’.

Another Email

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Dear Fabulous Journalist,

 

Some 10-14 years ago, you wrote a few great stories about a swimmer who had broken her neck and come back to make the Olympic Team for the Atlanta Games. That was me. In the ensuing years I have become an English teacher, a mother and a writer while swimsuits have become bigger, tighter, faster and more controversial than ever!

 

With The Commonwealth Games Trials fast approaching and swimming coming back into the spotlight, I was wondering if there might be an opportunity for me to get involved in giving readers an insight into what lies ahead for our swimmers. I am aware that Famous Person often writes pieces commenting on current issues in the sport and I thought this kind of front-line perspective might be complimented by a ‘human interest’ angle; something that gives an insight into what the athletes might be experiencing physically, mentally and emotionally through the different phases of their preparation for the Trials and, later, The Games in India.

 

I have had experience with writing – in November last year my memoir, Wobbles – An Olympic Story, was published by Interactive Publications with a foreword by John Konrads. The feedback has been excellent. Duncan Armstrong said, “Many sporting stories fall short in taking the reader into the painful, lonely, exhilarating, monotonous, confusing and triumphant moments a life in sport delivers. This book throws you down and drags you through them all!”

 

It’s not your average sports memoir, it is not a story about someone who won medals, broke records or wowed the world with her exceptional prowess, but it is completely honest and true to the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing during each event in my life rather than presenting a sanitised version of events courtesy of hindsight and maturity. Feedback has been that it makes for a “gripping” read, so now it is just a matter of getting the word out there!

 

In addition to writing experience, I also have some knowledge of India (having travelled and stayed there on a number of occasions) and could offer some perspectives on what the athletes might expect from that most vibrant and chaotic of host nations. My book is also set to be launched in India later this month and connection led me to think that perhaps excerpts from my memoir could be an alternative way of bringing the swimming journey and my experiences in India to life for readers, if a regular ‘Insiders Guide’ is not suitable.

 

I would be keen to know what you think and if you have any other ideas on how I might be able to help you with your coverage of the swimming. Also, if you know anybody I could approach with regards to getting word about Wobbles out into the community and/or reviewed that would be enormously helpful!

 

If you would like to see a sample of my writing or for more information, my website covers it all: www.nadineneumann.com.au. And if you would like a copy of Wobbles to have a look at and pass around, just let me know!

 

Thank you for your time and for your writing!

My email

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Dear Person I Spoke To,
 
It was good to speak with you today about my new book, Wobbles – An Olympic Story. It is not your average sports memoir about someone who won medals, broke records or wowed the world with her exceptional prowess, but it is an uplifting story of an ordinary girl who wanted something extraordinary and nothing, not even Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or a broken neck could stop her.
 
The book is also unique in its style. I have remained completely true to the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing during each event in my life rather than presenting a sanitized version of the rollercoaster of elite sport with the benefit of hindsight and maturity. The feedback has been that this honesty makes for a “gripping” read – very flattering!
 
In addition to writing, I am also and English teacher, motivational speaker and mother of one (soon to be two) little handfuls. I have attached a media release which should give you a little more information and for even more, you can have a look at my website: www.nadineneumann.com.au.
 
I look forward to hearing from you! 

Nadine

The Deep End

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Just over a month into my New Year’s Promotional Strategy Resolution and progress has been made!

For a long time it seemed I was barking up all the wrong trees, speaking a language that nobody understood and wasting the little self-respect I had left on fawning before disinterested strangers. Then a wonderful thing happened.

First, I marched boldly into my local Angus & Robertson with 18-month-old son (covered in Vegemite) in stroller and asked the girl busily sorting books behind the counter, “Excuse me, I was just wondering how I would go about getting my book stocked here.” She looked bewildered and as she was taking my details down she was rescued by a more senior staff member. I repeated my question while prying a copy of Stephanie Meyers’ “Twilight” from my son’s Vegemite fingers. She tapped away at her keyboard and smiled.
“Oh, ok. Well, we’ll just order a few copies in and see how they go. Were you interested in doing a signing or anything like that as well?”

I was floored! It was that simple. Just ask. Just front up and ask. The worst that can happen is they give you the name of a manager that doesn’t work there anymore or the number of an answering service that doesn’t pass on messages. So just ask!
 
Second, I got an article into my local paper – The Maitland Mercury. Have a look at it here:
http://www.maitlandmercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/olympic-swimmer-tells-of-extraordinary-life/1733028.aspx

I called the paper and asked to speak to an appropriate person (the people who answer the phones are brilliant and know exactly where to send you if you give them a one sentence wrap-up of why you’re calling). After a brief, and I mean very brief chat, I got an email address. I then sent a nice, semi-succinct email with a reminder of who I was and that we had, in fact, spoken on the telephone. I included plenty of name-dropping, recommendations and links to current issues (ie Commonwealth Games Trials coming up) as well as an attached media release.  I’ll post a sample of the email for anyone keen to see.

And third was the biggest win so far – I emailed a journalist who writes about swimming for the Sydney Morning Herald and who had once, in my swimming days, written about me. I emailed with a concept, an idea of how I might be able to help him with the coverage of the upcoming swimming trials. I floated a few ideas and options I thought might be interesting – excerpts from the book to bring swimming to life, features on the “inside story” or “behind the scenes” type stuff to give readers a deeper understanding of the sport.
He referred me on to his editors at SMH and the Sun Herald. He mentioned the ideas to them and then it was up to me.
So I sent two very scary emails and spent a month checking breathlessly for a reply…

Nothing.

So I sent a follow-up email, about three weeks after the first and this time I attached some sample excerpts from the book that I thought might be appropriate (and that showcased my writing while also being intriguing, exciting, revealing of the inner workings of an athlete in some way, etc).

Bingo!

A few emails, a meeting and one week later I am sweating over the idea that I will be writing for the Sun Herald – first feature (possibly a double-page spread) out on 14th March!

The spin offs have begun already – Dymocks George Street, Sydney have ordered stock and I now have something tangible and BIG with which to approach radio stations, other papers and magazines and book shops – another angle.

So call in those favours, contact old acquaintances and find a way that you can help the media offer their public something new and different and special. It won’t work every time, but all it takes is once.

Here’s hoping… and nervously writing!

New Year, New Intentions

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This is a post with little information, but a whole lot of plans that may or may not work – a blog of intention if you like.

I have a vague promotional strategy forming and it centres around the Commonwealth Games Swimming Trials in March this year. The idea is to piggy-back as much as possible on the rising media attention on swimming and swimmers as the trials approach.

It involves writing many emails and making many phone calls to journalists, newspapers, presenters, radio stations and swimming organisations.
It involves trying to get a table from whence to sell my book at as many swim meets between now and then as I possibly can.
It involves writing press-releases and feature articles and sending them far and wide to every magazine, newspaper and e-zine I can think of with even the vaguest, most tenuous link to my story.
It involves shamelessly calling in favours.
It involves pestering with a persistence usually reserved for night-stalking mosquitos and little country flies.

And it involves mountains of audacity!

Wish me luck!