Guest blogger: Brigid Lowry on using reading and journaling to create a meaningful life

It is a delight to welcome Brigid Lowry to Aussiereviews.  

If you’re struggling to maintain grace and good humour amidst daily potholes and pitfalls, Brigid  may be just the warm, wise and witty companion you need. Her new book is called A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself and other essays.

Greetings. My name is Brigid Lowry.

I didn’t start out wanting to be a writer. I tried being a librarian, a schoolteacher, a waitress, a cook and a laboratory assistant, and had various other unmentionable jobs, then lived in a Buddhist community for many years, helping to raise children, run retreats and build adobe buildings. When I was 35, married with one son, I went back to university and realised that writing was the thing I loved to do.

My first title was a mushy teenage love story in the Dolly Fiction series. Various twists and turns led me to a rather lovely career writing for teenagers and teaching creative writing to people of all ages, though I still published poetry and short fiction here and there. My MA in Creative Writing involved writing a semi-autobiographical adult novel and an academic thesis on the topic of memoir. Most of my YA titles were fiction, but one was non-fiction – Juicy Writing: Inspiration and Techniques for Young Writers. Although it was marketed this way, many adult writers have told me they love this book and use it often for inspiration. More recently, I have returned to writing for adults and, in 2016, my first adult title, Still Life with Teapot: On Zen, Writing and Creativity, was published by Fremantle Press.

A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself and Other Essays is my latest book and it’s about to hit the shops. I’ve been practising meditation in the Zen and Vipassana traditions for 40 years, and during those years I have also explored personal growth and therapy to process the events of a challenging childhood.  My work and themes have evolved from these sources. In my new book I offer insights and suggestions for anyone wishing to live a sane, nourishing and creative life in these difficult times, using humour to lighten the mood.

I am very much in favour of humour as good medicine. My favorite cartoonist is Roz Chast, who uses her own life and the lives of fellow New Yorkers in her wise, warm and excellent cartoons. I also love Anne Lamott, who is a recovered alcoholic, a Christian and one of the funniest writers I have encountered. She writes about her own neurosis and struggles, inspiring the reader by sharing her joys and triumphs. Life is good, but also weird and hard, she writes.

So, how do we navigate life’s challenges? Are our survival mechanisms healthy? Buddhist teacher and psychologist Josh Korda calls drinking a failed attempt at happiness, yet wine o’clock is common for many until health or financial issues become problematic, or one realises that the thrill is short-lived, that hangovers suck and that the problems you were trying to avoid did not magically vanish. Similarly, working too hard, emotional eating, recreational shopping or too much screen time are temporary fixes. A little may be good, too much proves hollow. In my own life, I have found creativity, meditation, exercise, the outdoors and human connection of benefit.

Reading and journalling are precious tools for creating a meaningful life. Savour books, keep a pile beside your bed, use them as islands of wonder. Read widely, read deeply, but skim if you need to. Give yourself permission to abandon a boring book. When feeling stale, make haste to the library or a bookshop, feasting on what you find there. Books provide an unlimited source of escape, fascination, knowledge and solace.

Journalling is a satisfying way of staying in touch with yourself and your feelings, a safe place to be yourself when the world seems murky. It can bring clarity in the midst of mayhem, comfort when one is world-weary. Choose a cheap exercise book or a fancy journal. Grab an old pencil or some rainbow pens. Collect ideas, memories, wise thoughts. Record your dreams. This life is so precious, so fleeting and so ready to be explored on paper in your own sweet way.

Try some lists. The five worst people to invite to dinner. The 10 things that bring merriment. The three best places to yell out loud. The six uses for a banana that are not eating it. The eight things you would like for your birthday that don’t cost any money.

Wishing you creativity and wonder, ease and delight.

A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself and other Essays by Brigid Lowry is available in all good bookstores and online.

Triple Ripple, by Brigid Lowry

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe


At the beginning I found the concept of Triple Rippleby Brigid Lowry odd. However it doesn’t take long to be intrigued by the cleverness of the three interwoven stories. There is the storyteller who gives the story of Glory taken to an unspecified palace in an unspecified Kingdom, there is also the writer including snippets of the writer’s life and problems, as well as the story of the 15 year old reader, Nova, who is reading the fairytale. The writer gives insights into creating the book and the characters of glory, Princess Mirabella and others. The 15 year old reader picks up the fairy tale. Nova is experiencing her own problems at school.

Rather than being a distraction the idea of three stories it is an engaging concept. The further you get into the fairy tale the more you are keen to see what is happening in the writer’s life and thought processes, as well in the life of the reader. Sometimes there is a parallel between the life of the 15 year old reader whose father is coming home and Princess Mirabella of the fairytale waiting for the king. Use of humour and the constant changes make this a very easy book to read. Most female readers of around 12-14 will love this book.

What is interesting is the way the writer sometimes works out a scene then decides what is wrong with it and goes back and changes something. So we, the readers, end up with a second and sometimes a third version of the same scene. Schools will particularly find this interesting for creative writing projects, as it gives insight into a writer’s mind and shows how one change can influence the direction of the book. For example the fairy tale the writer ideally thinks of bears little resemblance to the finished story.

Triple Ripple

Triple Ripple, by Brigid Lowry
Allen & Unwin, 2011
Paperback RRP $17.99

This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Tomorrow All Will Be Beautiful, by Brigid Lowry

This is for the girl with the dodgy sense of humour; for the girl who likes sad songs and blue marbles, the one whose dog just got run over by a car, and the one whose cat just had kittens.

Part autobiography, part whimsy and all lovely, this is a collection of short stories and poems from award-winning author Brigid Lowry, a New Zealander who has spent much of there writing life in Australia, but has recently returned to he homeland. Both countries feature heavily in various stories.

Subject matter is wide and varies – from bad hair days to divorce and moving out of home – but the common thread is Lowry’s blend of wisdom with whimsy. Readers may well find themselves floating through the stories in a sort of dream-like state of awareness. Having said this, this adult reviewer had trouble imaging her teenage daughter enjoying the stories as much as she herself did, in spite of the young adult labelling of the book.

Lowry’s writing is easy to read, but never simplistic or patronising. Readers will get out of the stories what they choose to absorb, looking beyond problems such as what to do with one’s hair, to the reality of the problems of self-confidence which are being explored, for example. There are also plenty of opportunities for laughter and head-nodding agreement with Lowry’s take on life.

This is a beautiful collection with much to offer women and girls of any age.

Tomorrow All Will be Beautiful

Tomorrow All Will Be Beautiful, by Brigid Lowry
Allen & Unwin, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

With Lots of Love From Georgia, by Brigid Lowry

My name is Georgia. I live in a town called Anywhere that has too many shopping malls and not enough skate parks. I’m taller than most fifteen year olds and I weigh more too…I like to think of myself as a brilliant creative person, but sometimes I feel like a sad lonely girl with a big bum.

This is how Georgia introduces herself at the beginning of this first-person offering which has a diary-like feel to it. Georgia shares a slice of her life with honesty and humour.

Sometimes a troubled teen story can run the risk of being just that – the moanings of a troubled teen. At other times, such a novel can be moralistic (gently or otherwise) or produce an answer so cut and dried it is as if the character’s fairy godmother has waved a magic wand. With Lots of Love From Georgia does neither of these things. Like any teen, troubled or otherwise, Georgia is at times self-absorbed and sorry for herself. She has troubles: a father whose death eleven years ago she still feels achingly; a weight problem that makes her self-concious and lonely; and friendship problems with her best friend Mel and with a delicous boy who could never return her affections. But Georgia also finds joy – in the pleasures of talking to her rock-star idol Jakob’s photograph and in writing lists in her journal as well as in the connections she makes with real people, including her grandfather, her friends and various relatives.

Lowry makes Georgia believably real. She’s intelligent, insightful and wryly humorous, but she also has flaws, including her self-pity and her tendency to comfort-eat. The adult figures in the book are also realistically flawed. Georgia’s mother is compassionate and, at times, wise, but also struggles to communicate with her daughter and even to empathise. Grandad dishes out wisdom when needed, both to Georgia and her mother, but his advice isn’t always on track or on time.

With Lots of Love From Georgia is cleverly crafted. We see through Georgia’s eyes and yet we see more than Georgia, for we see her wisdom, her courage and her growth. It is both insightful and witty and teenage readers will not only enjoy it – they’ll believe in it.

WIth Lots of Love From Georgia, by Brigid Lowry
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Space Camp, by Brigid Lowry and Sam Field

It is the year 2373 and a group of gifted students are travelling from Earth to a space camp on the planet Phoenixia. The trip is meant to be focussed on learning, but for the students it is also a chance for something different and maybe even some adventure. None of them forsee just how much adventure is awaiting them.

On the surface, Phoenixia is a beautiful, peaceful planet. Unfortunately for the visiting teens, that is about to change. Phoenixia is rich in resources, it seems, resources that others are prepared to go any length to harness. The students must work together to overcome those who would destroy Phoenixia and all on its surface.

Space Camp is an action-packed, fun read with themes including self-discovery and conservation. It will appeal to readers aged 11 to 14, especially those with an interest in light science fiction.

Brigid Lowry and Sam Field are a mother-son team. This is their first collaboration.

Space Camp, by Brigid Lowry and Sam Field
Allen and Unwin, 2002