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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 13:46:18

kandinskysgirl

Hi Kathy,

I really enjoyed How To Kill Your Husband...it made me giggle a lot.

I would love to write a novel (doesn't everyone?) but how do you know when the story is good enough? Do you tell people your ideas to get responses or do you write the whole book and hope for the best?

I don't know enough about Asperger's to comment on that aspect so mine is a very lightweight question smile.

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!

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:46:27

MmeLindor

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?

I think, as a society, we need to be more tolerant of eccentricity. The reason I made the protagonist of my novel, Lucy, a single mother, was to emphasise the social isolation felt by the parents of a special needs child. The sand box becomes a quicksand box, as other parents move their children away, fearing some leprosy-like contagion just because your own kid has said something quirky. We are all too quick to judge a child's tantrum as a case of 'bad parenting." Tolerance and acceptance, this should be our motto.

Peachy Mon 23-Apr-12 13:47:29

'But one thing for sure, putting a kid with special needs into a state school, is as useless as giving a fish a bath.
'

I disagree- but geting it right takes so much work and lick! I have 2 with diagnosed autism (well, one AS and one Autism) and they are both in fabulous placements within state education that specialise in high functioning children. The system i a mess though, and what has astounded me is that there are so few chances to change that- I am completing my MA in ASD and yet there are so few jobs for me to apply for. Autistic kids are expensive and nobody wants to help.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:48:44

Bellstar

Chocolate or sex?wink

Sex, definitely! Although I do think the trouble with married sex, is not women faking orgasms, but men faking foreplay! Actually, my favourite foreplay is my husband doing the housework. And do you know what I really want in bed? Breakfast! But boys take note, it is scientifically proven that no woman has ever shot her husband while he was vacuuming!

Peachy Mon 23-Apr-12 13:51:01

And can I say I admire how positive youa re! Jy eldest started an AS specific class in Spetember; he has gone from bottom of his year in Mainstream to top of his year including mainstream. He is class rep for the Base (it takes up to age 18, he is 12) and has started making and selling the most beautiful beaded jewellery, something he aplns to make a career of. I don't under estimate how ahrd children with Asperger's can be- Sam gets DLA for very good reasons and his brother is more severely affected- but they (we? I start assessment myself soon) have so much to give as well.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:53:02

strangerwithmyface

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?

I think any mother who finishes a novel should just get the Booker prize... just for finishing as it's so much harder for women writers. All the male writers I know, retreat to their studies. Their wives bring them up little sandwiches. The kids are told to tiptoe around the house "shhhh. Daddy's working!"... As a female writer, if you get half an hour between bailing one out of prison, saving the math tutor from being dragged up the stairs between your teenager's teeth, and dashing off to parent teacher night (often under an assumed name!) - then you are writing. There's no time to wait for inspiration. But I also think that the old Cyril Connolly quote about the pram in the hall being the enemy of promise, is not true. All my women writer friends who don't have children, suffer endless writers block. To me, writers block is a penitentiary where you send authors who pun too often - a punitentiary. We don't have time for writers block!

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:56:10

Peachy

'But one thing for sure, putting a kid with special needs into a state school, is as useless as giving a fish a bath.
'

I disagree- but geting it right takes so much work and lick! I have 2 with diagnosed autism (well, one AS and one Autism) and they are both in fabulous placements within state education that specialise in high functioning children. The system i a mess though, and what has astounded me is that there are so few chances to change that- I am completing my MA in ASD and yet there are so few jobs for me to apply for. Autistic kids are expensive and nobody wants to help.

Yes, autistic kids are expensive, but how much cheaper to help them when they're young than to house them in prison (which is full of people with learning difficulties who have fallen through the cracks) or keep them on benefits in sheltered housing. With the right intervention, they could contribute in the most spectacular way. Think of all those computer whiz kids in America.... I'd say they're all on the autistic spectrum. Starting with STeve Jobs.

StarshitTerrorise Mon 23-Apr-12 13:56:28

Thank you Kathy.

My DS says 'if there's a high street, what shops are on the low street?' and various.

What do you think of the removal of Aspergers as a dx?
Do you think it will help access support or increase discrimination based on ignorance about ASDs generally?

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 13:58:16

I'd also like to add that there is so much undiagnosed autism/ aspergers in the male population. Just take another look at your husband. Is he obsessed with football, trains, cars, music. Is he socially awkward. Does it occasionally feel as though you're living with a martian? Then there's a good chance he's aspergic.

Peachy Mon 23-Apr-12 14:00:41

Oh absolutely Kathy; I think the way ASD funding is broken down is one of our buiggest enemies- children's services are looking to make savings as are early eyars and adult services and...... whereas if they all had one pot to answer for, the proven fact that early intervention works would soon come to the fore and become a budgetary priority.

I just think when politicisns see ASD or SN they simply see great big £££££££ signs and run away as fast as they can.

My eldest will either be a Millionaire or a Prisoner- it really will be that simple for him, yet there was nothing until I happened to study autism and meet someone teaching in a relevant school- that takes 2 kids in our city a year. how many more are neglected though?

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 14:01:01

StarshitTerrorise

Thank you Kathy.

My DS says 'if there's a high street, what shops are on the low street?' and various.

What do you think of the removal of Aspergers as a dx?
Do you think it will help access support or increase discrimination based on ignorance about ASDs generally?

ha ha. I love that comment. It's so strangely logical. My son asked me one day, "if there's a happy hour in bars, is there a sad hour too?" And I thought - yes, there really is! How oddly perspicacious.

As for the aspergers diagnosis.... the more we talk and write and discuss this extraordinary syndrome, the better it will be for all.

HotheadPaisan Mon 23-Apr-12 14:01:38

No question but thank you to you and your son for talking about ASD so publicly.

Peachy Mon 23-Apr-12 14:03:43

And equally tehre are many undiagnosed females I thnk- Ir ead something about looking at women who ahd suffered with eating disorders and how high the prevalence was there, and I crtainly have seen a lot of that. In America it is the black communities that have high numbers of undiagnosed children. Which elads to otehr interesting theory I have read that high functioning ASDs are just an evolutionary shift towards an age where we all use the internet and social interaction ceaes to be so important. I don't know, I suspect ds1 might be of that ilk but ds3 is far more severely impaired whilst still being officially HF- and onw would assume sharing a gene.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 14:04:43

Peachy

Oh absolutely Kathy; I think the way ASD funding is broken down is one of our buiggest enemies- children's services are looking to make savings as are early eyars and adult services and...... whereas if they all had one pot to answer for, the proven fact that early intervention works would soon come to the fore and become a budgetary priority.

I just think when politicisns see ASD or SN they simply see great big £££££££ signs and run away as fast as they can.

My eldest will either be a Millionaire or a Prisoner- it really will be that simple for him, yet there was nothing until I happened to study autism and meet someone teaching in a relevant school- that takes 2 kids in our city a year. how many more are neglected though?

All parents of special needs kids, should get Mothering and Fatheirng Medals. My son often says he feels that he's drowning in his own brain waves. I just hope that my novel, "The Boy Who Fell To EArth" can act, in a small way, as a literary life raft.

I nearly called the book "My Family and Other Aliens" as it does feel as though I found Jules under a space ship and raised him as my own. But he has taught me to be more patient and humble and tolerant. I learn from him every day. He's the bravest boy I know. But that doesn't mean that I don't often also need a very stiff drink!

vdelacruz Mon 23-Apr-12 14:08:27

Hi,
in your twitter account a couple of days ago you said the King of Spain shot himself while hunting elephants. He didn't, it was his grandson who shot himself, while the king was in Botswana hunting elephants... also, he's not the head of WWF but an honorary founder of the Spanish equivalent... BUT ANYWAY!
I ADORED Mad Cows. Bought it in London in 2000 when I was in uni studying translation and it opened a whole new world to me, away from the very academic and stale English they usually teach us foreigners... I've re-read it throughout the years, and now that I am a mother myself I think I love it even more. I also liked your other books, but I recently read someone (amazon review?) saying that you were better in short articles than long format, what do you say to that?
Thanks!!

Peachy Mon 23-Apr-12 14:10:21

Wine is very useful when parenting kids with Special Needs!

And there are so many abrriers. the local LEA Behavior Rep for example has written books about ASD being caused by attachment disorder. You CAN argue with people like that- I frequently do wink- but howmany lives has negatively impaced on? It's all very well for me to tell him where to go, most parents won;t have the language or studies to use as ammo. And that is scary.

One day though we'll sort it, sort it being kids getting access to the right education and chances for them, and equality of life chances. Thank you for being so verbal about the issue- I saw a quote from this on twitter and wasn't sure but it is good to have read this.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 14:11:14

RachelMumsnet

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?

The book was "What Katy did Next" - which pretty much sums up my entire life. I'm always ricocheting on to another adventure. That's my one bit of advice, actually. NEVER TURN DOWN AN ADVENTURE. I speak from personal experience. In the late 80's, I worked on a sit com in LA called "The Facts of Life." We cast an unknown actor called George Clooney. He asked me out. I said "NO." What I actually said is "I'm a writer. I don't go out with actors. You put other people's words in your mouth, when you never know where they've been." Then years later, I'm in London, with two small babies, covered in vomit. One of my LA writer mates was visiting me. ER was on. "Oh, look at that Doctor Ross. I could swim through a pool of my own drool to get to him."
"But, that's the guy who asked you out. That's the guy we cast. That's George Clooney."
I screamed. I lay in the foetal position for two weeks. Mind you I thought I might ring him now and say "About that date. I've had time to think it through...."

If you want to write fiction, have something original to say and an original way to say it.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 23-Apr-12 14:11:18

Thanks so much Kathy for joining us today. We'll be announcing the five winner's of The Boy Who Fell to Earth shortly.

KathyLette Mon 23-Apr-12 14:14:31

Thanks a lot for all your lovely, thought provoking questions. It's World Book Night, so I'm off to help give out one million free books. I gave out some this morning at Westminster to male politicians. Research shows that men don't read fiction by women. As females makes up 51% of the population and the cuts are effecting women more than men, I think it's time male politicians slipped between our covers and joined the Cliterati.
Maybe then they'll think about more than the size of their elections.
Happy World Book Night.
Love Kathy xxx

latedeveloper Mon 23-Apr-12 14:23:50

thanks Kathy and thanks to Mumsnet HQ for organising

HotheadPaisan Mon 23-Apr-12 14:32:11

Just lolololol at the last smile

thebestisyettocome Mon 23-Apr-12 14:53:16

That was great. So funny and so truthful.

lindy20 Mon 23-Apr-12 15:17:53

Hi, I loved that "Putting a kid with special needs into a state school, is as useless as giving a fish a bath"............we de registered our 13 year old son who has aspergers from school 2 weeks ago .......long story but you know it already...........

DameHermione Mon 23-Apr-12 15:48:31

[gin]

And thanks kathy and mnhq

champagnesuperdupernova Mon 23-Apr-12 17:01:12

Argh! Too late. I forgot about this.
gutted
If I'm not too late, Kathy I heart you.

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