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Live webchat with author Kathy Lette - TODAY, Monday 23rd April, 1pm

(83 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 19-Apr-12 11:51:35

Author Kathy Lette is joining us on Monday 23 April for a live webchat from 1- 2pm. In her latest novel, The Boy Who Fell to Earth, Kathy draws on own her experience of raising her son, Julius (now 21) who has Asperger syndrome. It tells the story of Lucy, single-parent to Merlin who is autistic, and and the joys and tribulations of raising her eccentrically adorable yet challenging son. With her usual wit and glittering style, Kathy's latest novel is both funny and deeply moving.

Kathy's first novel, Puberty Blues, was published when she was a teenager and she's since written 11 international bestsellers including Mad Cows, How to Kill Your Husband and To Love Honour and Betray.

Join Kathy on Monday 23 April at 1pm and you'll be entered into a draw to win one of five copies of The Boy Who Fell to Earth.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:07:32

gazzalw

Hi Kathy, know quite a lot of Aussies take the proverbial out of the English. Are you the exception to the rule (given that you are married to a Pom) or do you feel 'exiled' over here? We have several school friend parents who have changed their tune significantly since arriving a couple of years back - to the point when even after a longed-for trip back to Oz over Christmas, they felt they were coming 'home' when they got on the planes back to the UK!

Actually, my husband is Australian. It’s just that he’s had a vowel transplant. I adore Australia, the fun, the sun, the dry humour and chronic scepticaemia – we’re sceptical about everything. But Britain is endlessly exciting. In Australia we conquer the Great Outdoors. But in Britain, we conquer the Great Indoors. The museums and galleries, all mostly free, the brilliant theatre, the historical monuments....I love being photographed in front of all those old relics as it makes me look so much younger! The whole country haemorrhages history.  
There’s a host of ghosts in every nook and cranny. In Oz, we lie down in front of bulldozers to save buildings constructed in , oh, 1977. So, while I am passionate about my home country (my convict ancestors were transported to the colonies on the first and second fleets, making me the crème de la crim) , I also love living here in Britain. So, I tend to straddle hemispheres.... My favourite position.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:07:48

dietstartstmoz

Hi Kathy,
Another one with a question relating to Autism. Our son is aged 4 and is in his first yr at mainstream primary, with a Statement. He has a diagnosis of high functioning autism, although he has significant developmental delays. What type of schools did your son attend, and what support did he get? What did you find was the most useful intervention for your son? I'm just interested and nosey when it comes to other peoples experiences!
Thanks

It's important to concentrate on all the things your dear little boy can do and not on all the things they can't. Otherwise, our kids end up with a self esteem which is limbo low. Our boys are lateral, tangential, literal and deliciously quirky. And will one day find their niche. Good luck. x

FarawayLook Mon 23-Apr-12 13:08:28

Thank you and I absolutely agree with what you have written re "The System and education authorities".

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:10:29

DameHermione

Hi kathy

I've just finished 'The boy who fell to earth'. I cried. So much of my frustration of living with a teenager with Aspergers is in it. I'm thinking of getting copies for all my clueless family and one for school too.

Can i ask please, what kept you going through the 'difficult' teenage years?

Gin. Wine. Girlfriends. Family... It’s seems to me that your girlfriends and sisters are a woman’s human wonder bra – uplifting, supportive and making each other look bigger and better. Raising a normal child is hard enough, but for mothers of kids on the autism spectrum, it’s a million times harder. Mothering a child on the autism spectrum is like trying to put together a giant jigsaw puzzle without the benefit of having a coloured picture on the box. There is no owner’s manual. It’s like finding a baby under a spaceship and bringing him up as your own.  My heart goes out to you in sympathy and solidarity.

latedeveloper Mon 23-Apr-12 13:10:58

"putting a kid with special needs into a state school, is as useless as giving a fish a bath" - unfortunately many of us do not have much choice! And I'm old-fashioned enough to think that the state should give my kids a decent education whatever their respective needs.

Tell us more about what you were doing in parliament - kicking some arse on this issue i hope smile

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:12:20

runninggal

Hi Kathy, My DS aged 10 is currently being assessed for AS. We have undergone various therapies over the years to help with symptoms, OT, SALT, Dietary changes , supplements, sensory integration therapy etc . I noticed in one of your articles that you have tried many also. I was wondering, as a parent of an older child and looking back , what did you feel was helpful and made a long term difference and what was a waste of time.

When my son was diagnosed with autism, I felt such guilt. Was it something I ate? Was it something I didn't eat? Was it that one glass of wine I drank in the final trimester? Was it what I didn't drink - pureed beetroot? Then I tried every expert and treatment on the planet, ricocheting from one voodoo nut job to another. (When visiting Harley street specialists, remember where you parked your car as you'll need to sell it to pay off their astronomical bills!) In the end, I would say all that worked for me was Occupational therapy, speech therapy, the Michael Palin stuttering centre, a shrink, or what my son calls "A talking doctor" (he told me, aged five, that if McBeth had gone to a talking doctor he never would have killed Duncan) and loads and loads of love.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:13:39

DameEdnaBeverage

G'day possum! grin
I'm gutted that I can't join the live chat - your books always make me laugh. I haven't read your new book yet but hope to win one (any chance of a signed copy?). I have a son with probable AS (waiting on diagnosis) just about to enter the teenage years and could do with some light relief. I must say that your corgi dress was fantastic and made me extremely jealous - did Her Maj make any comment on it at all?

The corgi dress... Ah yes, it did make the Queen laugh. It’s covered in little corgis, wearing diamante-studded tiaras. I was doing a lot of royal wedding media coverage and didn’t want to look too serious, so I asked an  Aussie girlfriend to run it up for me.  The Queen was meeting so many people that night, she’d double glazed with boredom. But when she saw my corgi ensemble, she threw back her head and laughed. All though her hilarity might have had something to do with the fact that I told her I was slightly worried in case one of her corgis mated with my leg.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:15:53

latedeveloper

"putting a kid with special needs into a state school, is as useless as giving a fish a bath" - unfortunately many of us do not have much choice! And I'm old-fashioned enough to think that the state should give my kids a decent education whatever their respective needs.

Tell us more about what you were doing in parliament - kicking some arse on this issue i hope smile

I know, yes, the education department should meet the educational needs of our children. But some boroughs and counties are better than others. Just because our children don't have a wheelchair or clutch a white stick, doesn't mean they're not disabled and don't deserve specialised help. In the scramble for funds, kids with less obvious disabilities are losing out. But they have so much to offer. What a tragedy if they waste their lives away living in a bedsit on benefits. With the right educational intervention, they could contribute to society in the most amazing way. But, to my mind, mainstreaming these kids doesn't work and is also too demanding on over-stretched, exhausted state school teachers. There were 44 people in my son's class. A sardine would feel claustrophobic in there. On parent teacher night, I needed a lubricant to get in!

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:19:01

MovingbacktoEngland

Hi Kathy, I'm just about to start reading your book but I'm interested to hear what you think about how schooling in England works (or not) for children with Asperger's or ASD and what would you change? Did you find the right fit for your son in a school?

Yes, everyone does have a novel in them. The difference between people who write books and those who don't, is that the people who write books, actually write them! Pretend you're writing to your best pal, then the words will flow. Never write with a critic looking over your shoulder. I loved writing "How To Kill Your Husband - and other handy household hints." My own husband was driving me mad, not helping around the house. He kept saying he'd like to help more, only, being a man, he couldn't multi task. What a biological cop out. No man would have any trouble multi tasking, at say, an orgy, now would he!

latedeveloper Mon 23-Apr-12 13:19:12

pmsl at lubricant! I agree we need more special schools that cater for all type of disabilities not just the most severe. Just doesn't seem fair that you have to be rich to help your children (not that I'm blaming you in the slightest for taking that opportunity -44 kids sounds nuts)

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:22:54

StewieGriffinsMom

Kathy, your first novel was published when you were a teenager. Where did you get the confidence to send your novel to a publisher and do you think that a young girl today would have the same chance? I don't know if you have seen Jump! Mag for Girls, but they have a Written By You section for girls to submit an article for publication. jumpmag.co.uk/ Do you know of any other websites that encourage girls to write?

I haven't heard of that JUmp, but it sounds excellent. Yes, my first novel was published when I was 19. It was about growing up as a surfie girl in Cronulla, Sydney. I wrote it for my other surfie girlfriends to give them some objectivity on what was happening to us. The surfie boys disproved the theory of evolution .They were evolving into apes. They thought 'sex drive' meant doing it in the car - probably because of those little signs on the rear vision mirror, which say "objects in this mirror, may appear larger than they are." We were treated as a life support system to a pair of breasts.
The book was a huge success, much to my parents' horror! But it was kind of daunting to go from non-entity to overnight notoriety at such a tender age
. Good luck with your writing.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:27:08

StarshitTerrorise

Hi Kathy,

How do you manage to write a book on the funny aspects of having a child on the spectrum, when for most of us these are overwhelmingly overshadowed by the misery suffered due to the repetitive and consistent failure of the services that are supposed to be in place to help?

Yes, i know. Raising a child on the autistic spectrum is alienating, terrifying, heartbreaking at times....but it can also be hilarious. As you know, kids with aspergers have no filter. They say exactly what they're thinking. This can be socially nerve-wracking, like the time my son grabbed the arm of a passing tattooed biker and said "excuse me, but have you ever noticed that your chin looks like upside down testicles?" My response was to say "Who is this child and why is he calling me MUm??" But it's also funny. My boy is always saying hilariously lateral, literal comments like "What is the speed of dark?" And "is a harp just a nude piano." And my favourite, "If onions make you cry , are there vegetables which make you happy?" So, try to concentrate on the fun and hilarity, and not on the dark despair. I wish you all the luck and love in the world.

kittykitty Mon 23-Apr-12 13:28:03

I was incredibly jealous when you landed that plum job of being writer in residence at The Savoy. Just wondering what you thought of it since it had it's makeover - and (as I reckon you'd know) where your favourite places to eat out in London are.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:31:02

cocolepew

Hi, did you discuss your book with your son, before you wrote it?

Hi. I'd never mentioned my son aspergers in the press. And had no intention of doing so, not wanting to invade his privacy. But then, when I started writing my 11th comic novel about the sex war, this other book about a single mother raising a son on the autistic spectrum just came pouring out of my pen. I decided I would let the book stand on it's own two literary legs and not mention my personal connection. But then a journo asked me if it was true my own son had aspergers. I was flummoxed. Lying would look as though I'm embarrassed of my Jules and the opposite is true. So I asked my son how he would feel about me talking about him. He loves the novel and says he hopes it will make people less judgemental and more accepting. I hope the book is a celebration of idiosyncrasies and eccentricities and difference. How dull it would be if we were all the same. A case of the bland leading the bland.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 23-Apr-12 13:31:42

Kathy, can we also ask you our two standard questions we ask authors when they visit mumsnet (which one day will be archived on the site):

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:32:20

MmeLindor

Hello. I just discovered you are on Twitter and am following you. Good to see a "sleb" who uses Twitter as it is supposed to be used and not just to promote their latest book.

I lived almost 20 years abroad and by the end of this time, I had (almost) stopped importing baked beans, Scottish pies, smoky bacon crisps and hot cross buns (although payment for visiting us continued to be a box of PG Tipps because living without a good cuppa is not living).

As a long term expat, is there anything you still have friends and family bring over to you, and the ultimate question, did you ever switch from Vegemite to Marmite?

Marmite?! Ugh. I am still a total vegemite girl. I love Oz. But adore being in Britain too. I straddle hemispheres. My favourite position!

cocolepew Mon 23-Apr-12 13:35:04

Thanks smile, I have a teenage DD with Aspergers, so will look out for your book.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:36:13

kittykitty

I was incredibly jealous when you landed that plum job of being writer in residence at The Savoy. Just wondering what you thought of it since it had it's makeover - and (as I reckon you'd know) where your favourite places to eat out in London are.

I was hoovering the carpet in my daggy tracksuit one day when the Savoy PR rang and asked me if I'd like to be Writer in Residence. "Gee, I dunno. I have to go shopping at Waitrose and then take out the garbage and....ARE YOU KIDDING! What would you like in exchange? An internal organ? My first born child!" It was better than winning the Booker prize. Basically the Savoy wanted to rekindle their literary links, as a lot of famous writers lived there - Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward, Emile Zola....Kathy Lette, natural segue! They gave me £2,000 night a suite for three months. And all I had to do were a few literary lunches in return. Ah, but parting was such suite sorrow.

strangerwithmyface Mon 23-Apr-12 13:37:22

Hi Kathy,

Do you have a writing room? Do you find writing gets easier as the years go by or is every book a an effort?

personanongrata Mon 23-Apr-12 13:38:38

Kathy, apologies if this question appears twice, but my computer's playing up. Did you watch the Louis Theroux documentary Extreme Love? If so, what did you reckon?
Thanks smile

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:38:43

loveursoul

Hi Kathy, your books are both inspiring and heartfelt and it helps those of us who dont always know which path to take that there is no right or wrong road only our own road so thankyou for giving us all a little light in our lives !

Thanks for your lovely message. I just write down the way women talk when there are no men around. It's a great male myth that women aren't funny. I presume men only say that because they're terrified what it is we're being funny about. They presume we spend the whole time talking about the length of their members.... which is not true. As we also discuss the width, which, after childbirth, is so much more important!

Bellstar Mon 23-Apr-12 13:41:12

Chocolate or sex?wink

LynnCSchreiber Mon 23-Apr-12 13:42:29

These lovely stories about your son are making me cry.

And it strikes me that we often read about children with SN and the difficulties they have, the fight that their parents have to school them, the negative aspects of their condition.

We don't often read about the funny and lovely side of their personalities.

Why do you think we concentrate on the "SN" side of these children, rather than seeing them as persons in their own right? And what can we do to alter this?

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:42:53

personanongrata

Kathy, apologies if this question appears twice, but my computer's playing up. Did you watch the Louis Theroux documentary Extreme Love? If so, what did you reckon?
Thanks smile

Yes, I did watch Louis Theroux's doco. I thought he did an excellent job, capturing the quirky humour and harrowing emotional ordeal in equal measure. The sad thing is that we don't have schools like that in Britain. As we now know with diagnostic hindsight, that Einstein, Warhol, MOzart, Van Gough, Newton and many other geniuses were on the autistic spectrum, it's clear that with the right help, these kids could become outstanding artists, innovators, scientists and inventors. Mind you, my son always complains about the pressure on him to be a genius, because of his aspergers and his incredible memory (he's wikipedia with a pulse). At the moment he just wants to be 'normal." (Although I hate the term 'normal" and "abnormal". I prefer 'ordinary" and "extraordinary.")

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 23-Apr-12 13:44:07

KathyLette

MovingbacktoEngland

Hi Kathy, I'm just about to start reading your book but I'm interested to hear what you think about how schooling in England works (or not) for children with Asperger's or ASD and what would you change? Did you find the right fit for your son in a school?

Yes, everyone does have a novel in them. The difference between people who write books and those who don't, is that the people who write books, actually write them! Pretend you're writing to your best pal, then the words will flow. Never write with a critic looking over your shoulder. I loved writing "How To Kill Your Husband - and other handy household hints." My own husband was driving me mad, not helping around the house. He kept saying he'd like to help more, only, being a man, he couldn't multi task. What a biological cop out. No man would have any trouble multi tasking, at say, an orgy, now would he!

Sorry for confusion; Kathy's answered the wrong q here - bear with us and we'll sort it out and match Q to A...

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