Thursday, 12 April 2012

We Chat With Candida Baker

Candida Baker's latest novel, The Wisdom of Women, is a celebration of womanhood and the highs and lows that come with it. We're all aware that women have a special type of wisdom and luckily Candy has taken some time out to answer some questions about why she was drawn to write about it.

Hi Candy, thanks a lot for taking time out to answer our questions! Let's get started.
 Your book The Wisdom of Women  is about women and the journeys they face in their lives.  What journeys in your life led you to write this book?

I am the eldest of five daughters, I've been a step-mum to two girls, and I'm the mother of a daughter - plus I've always had very close friendships with women.  I'd been thinking of writing a book about women for a long time, but wasn't quite sure how to do it.  When people enjoyed my other previous animal anthologies – The Infinite Magic of Horses, The Wonderful World of Dogs and The Amazing Life of Cats, I thought perhaps that same format could be used to tell women’s stories – from childhood onwards.  My journey as a daughter was not easy, my mum was an alcoholic, and I left England to live first in France at the age of 19, and then I moved permanently to Australia when I was 22.  In many ways I have had to learn lessons I should have learned as a child, as an adult.  The thing I noticed with the anthologies is that people really responded to the fact that mainly it was not writers telling their stories, it was just ordinary people with extraordinary things to say – and also how comforting I found it, and how comforting readers find it to realise that they are not along – that someone, somewhere has gone through the same or a similar situation.

Who are the women in your life that have inspired you?

I’ve been inspired by many women.  When I was little my mother was extremely inspirational – she was a costume designer and an artist, and I learned from her that being creative was a wonderful thing to be; from my fabulous Irish grandmother I learned that being eccectric was also a wonderful thing to be, and from my sisters that being unconditionally loving and supportive is the only way to be!  I’ve been lucky to work with some great women – Anne Summers for instance at the Good Weekend magazine, and other many strong and powerful women have passed through my life.  Where I live now there is a certain tribe of women who own horses and animals and are also extremely creative in their lives, and I hope I belong to that tribe!

What were some of the most memorable stories that women shared with you?

There are many wonderful stories in The Wisdom of Women – almost too many to choose from!  I think one that touched me deeply was Zenith Virago’s description of how she became a death celebrant, and how, when her best friend died, she was holding her head when Sylvia’s spirit passed from her body.  There’s everything from a tiny piece a friend of my daughter’s wrote about her mother, to Helen Brown’s funny piece about her great-aunt.  There’s stories of women not being able to conceive, women giving birth, women watching loved ones going through crises...almost everything that could happen to a woman is in the book I think!

Why Wisdom of Women?  Is there a quality in women that set them apart
from men?
We thought of a lot of titles before we settled on The Wisdom of Women – we decided that it really reflected the journey the book takes, as we travel from childhood to adulthood to old age, and the lessons we learn on the way.  I also love the fact that it’s called WoW – because we are WOW, no doubt about it!  We wanted the book to seem like a conversation, where you could dip into a person simply telling their story to you, and it would be part of that wonderful network we share as women with our friends, where chatting and cups of tea and comfort are SO important.  It’s not that men aren’t wise, of course they are – it’s just that this book is about female wisdom.

Did you take the photographs in the book?

I took most of the photographs in the book, yes.  A couple were given to me by a wonderful photographer near where I live, Jacklyn Wagner, and the rest I took.  Taking the photographs for all the anthologies has been extremely rewarding.  I think as an editor what I always enjoyed was the packaging of words and images, and in a sense the anthologies are an extension of that.

You talk about editing – did you enjoy working with people on their stories?

Very much!  In fact I loved working with all the women on their stories, and again with all the other anthology contributors as well – it’s been the most satisfying process, and I hope it has been for them.  I think taking stories that might normally just belong privately to people out into a wider universe is a wonderful thing to be able to do and I hope to be able to continue to do that.

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