In the six months since Women of the Gobi was published, I’ve spoken at my book launch and at a couple of writers festivals, and had one radio interview (Julie McCrossin for Qantas in-flight radio – she was lovely), and recently I addressed the senior assembly at Strathcona, the girl’s school I attended for the last two years of high school.

Guess which was the scariest experience, by far?

Teenage girls are terrifying. And none of them were even born when I was last there.

Before I did the talk, I asked a few friends if they remembered being addressed by ‘old girls’ any time when they were at school, and my friend Bec told me a story that turned my blood cold. A former student talked to her Year 12 class about her life as a fashion model, and how she’d chucked it in to set up some worthy project in the third world, feeding orphans and suchlike.

Afterwards the only thing anyone said was ‘She was a model? She’s not that pretty.’

So there I was with a bunch of teenagers at 8.30 in the morning on a cold winter’s day, what an ideal audience. I thought I’d try to win them over with a few laughs, but I had absolutely no idea what teenage girls would find funny. I was up on the stage with a few teachers sitting behind me, and I could hear them laugh at my jokes, but I could hardly raise a titter from the girls, even when I cracked a killer line about Celine Dion. I don’t think the girls knew who she was.

Lucky them.

At the end of assembly the school captain presented me with a Strathcona mug. I was more excited about this than you might imagine, because it was the very first free thing I’d got as a result of being a published author. Swag!


I went in to Lonely Planet to do some work later in the day, and I took my new mug up to the cafe and boasted about it to Pete the barrista while he poured a perfect long black into it. He looked at the gold rim. ‘Nice of them to give you a mug you can’t put in the dishwasher or microwave,’ he observed.

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