Artist in Profile | The Outlandish Summer Land12.09.2013
On the 1st of spring, Summer Land’s debut novel was officially launched at a signing at Berkelouw Bookshop in Sydney. Summerlandish is a Gen Y quarter-century memoir filled with more sticky situations and backside-tearing adventures (yes, you read that correctly) than most people cram into a lifetime, and began as a blog and an eBook. Married to a miner from Wollongong and living in Mudgee far from her Gainesville, Florida hometown, this Emerson College Alum, ex-Marketing Manager has been blogging about her life since 2010 and is being touted as a poster-child for the “Overshare Generation”; a hero for digital natives who see spilling stories with all the details – #toomuchinformation – as, simply, standard.
Estelle Pigot chats to this colourful regional writer.
What’s your celebrity status like in Mudgee since your book was released?
It’s really funny you should ask this question. I don’t feel like a celebrity here except that I feel like people know who I am because I am painfully American.
But then, just yesterday I was at the doctor for a routine check-up and a lady in the waiting room there was like, ‘Oh, are you the author?’ and then yesterday someone else said to me at the store – ‘Congratulations on the book.’ It’s like it has just happened in the last 48 hours.
But The Mudgee Guardian has been really supportive. They covered me doing FebFast earlier in the year and have featured me before. Someone said to me, ‘you know you’re a local when you’ve made the paper five times.’
I just sometimes feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.
You mention on you blog that you are sometimes starved for food choices living in Mudgee. Are you creatively fulfilled living in regional NSW?
I only complain about food when I’m hungry. I feel like I would have put on much more baby weight if I had more options, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing. I do like the energy of a city, I genuinely like public transportation. But then, I love walking up with my dog, there’s a beautiful dam here, it’s so relaxing. I can come home, make ice tea and spend the afternoon writing. Or go into a café in town and write. It’s just so easy.
I do like to write in a city, I like to go and have meetings in Melbourne with my publishers and visit writers’ festivals, but to come home to this is great.
How is your life now different from your life in the US?
It’s really pretty different. The mentality is different. In the US, there’s this set idea that you grow up, go to college and get a job. It’s a bit more laid back here, and it’s all completely acceptable. You know here that whatever path you choose you’re going to have a really great life. There isn’t the same stigma here as there is in America, if you choose not to go to college but to get a trade instead, or you take a gap year and decide not to slave, that’s fine. I love how relaxed Australia is in that way; it feels like everyone is working to live and not living to work.
Have you connected with other creatives or creative networks in Mudgee and the surrounds?
As I gained more notoriety and met more people, I have come to know the bookshop owners and the organisers of the readers’ festival. They are an older crowd, it’s a different generation from my group of friends, but I’ve been welcomed with open arms and it’s great to have their support. I have met lots of people through travelling to the Writers’ Festival in Sydney and I just got back from the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, and, even though it’s crazy because I’ll be 36 weeks pregnant, I’m signed up to go to the National Young Writers Festival in Newcastle in October.
Do any of your outrageous adventures take place in your hometown of Mudgee… or are you saving these for a sequel?
So, the stories are more from my backpacking days. I did write a story about being attacked by a magpie on my very first day in Mudgee. But, I had really finished writing the stories in the book before I really had a chance to dig into Mudgee.
Country towns have a bit of a reputation for gossip, have you started a wildfire with your disclosures?
That’s just the thing – if you say first nobody can say it behind your back! I was really nervous about releasing the book – I wondered if people would shun me – but I’ve been really pleasantly surprised.
But my mother-in-law doesn’t want to read it, and I’m perfectly happy for her not to go there. My mum loves it, though (though I think mums are always your biggest fans).
The Sydney Morning Herald sees you as a poster child for what’s being dubbed the “overshare generation”- why do you think you and your contemporaries are opening up and airing their dirty laundry in public more?
I just think bathroom humour has generally become more acceptable. We’re more used to people discussing these old taboos. Also, and I’m speaking for Americans, we graduated from college at a really horrible time. There were no jobs, then the jobs we got were horribly paid, then we all got laid off… so we just had to laugh about life.
Our parents’ generation is different, their life was all “Oh, you know, my husband got a great job and graduated from medical school” and it was really braggy braggy, but now I think people are able to be a lot more real about life.
By sharing this stuff, the best thing has been people have wanted to share their stories with me – and I have heard some really crazy stories. I want that. I want people to read my book, and obviously laugh, but also to relate to it. To cringe during my awkward story but also feel like, yeah, I’m not the only one with a really cringe-worthy, awkward high school story.
I hope they go, ‘Well, she turned out OK.’ Because I feel like I did. I’m really happily married, I’m excited to be a new mum, I love where I live, I feel like my confidence is so much higher than what it was when I was younger. I hope they read my story and see it doesn’t matter what path you take, it’s all going to be OK.
What’s happening next for you?
Right now, I’m nominated for the Fun Fearless Female Awards that Cosmo mag is running (in the Author category). I’m up against really amazing people, so I won’t be upset when I don’t win. But you can vote three times a day – so tell your readers to do it. I feel really weird asking people to do this but I think it’s sort of cool.
Then, I’m going to have this baby and provide it with the nurture, nutrients and care it will need but then during the next 6 months to a year, I’ll be getting my head around what I’m going to do next.
The best thing that Hardie Grant did for me was to take all of my short stories and help make them one whole work. And I’m always writing stories or writing down ideas for stories. I don’t want it to just be about having a baby and being a mum – but other things happen. I don’t know what I’m going to write next. I think it’s just natural that I want to write funny stories about myself. So, I’ll keep making content and see where it takes me.
It’s so funny, my school (Emerson College) is really well known for its writing and literature program but I didn’t study that there, I did marketing. I chose marketing because it was so broad and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I wasn’t thinking of being a writer. But I think that’s why I got published so quickly; because I knew how to market myself. I’m not an intense writer who writes complex prose, I write very conversationally which I think is what makes my stories accessible.
Where can we get your book?
Well, you can buy it at Bookworld and Booktopia. But it’s in almost every bookshop that I’ve checked, and don’t worry I do check. I called a bookshop a few weeks ago to see if my book was in, and wanted to order it but when they asked me my name, I couldn’t tell them it was me so I made up this big elaborate lie pretending to be this other girl. I told this story about this whole other girl, then I had to ask my friend to go into the store to get the book, and she had to play along with the story – pretending to be this made up girl… it was so complicated. You’ll see that story on my blog soon.
Look out for Summer Land at the National Young Writers Festival in October. She’ll be the heavily pregnant lady attending sessions and shamelessly plugging Summerlandish. Go and get your copy signed!
For more oversharing, follow Summer on Facebook and Twitter.
Image: Summer Land photographed by Henryk Lobaczewski.