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An Interview with Colleen Golafshan


Colleen Golafshan is a carer and writer who first worked as a physiotherapist for 13 years. From 1996 she home-educated children for over 15 years. After studying massage therapy to update her skills, Colleen began writing a parenting memoir during COVID, while seeking best management of a low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Since chemo in 2021 and improved health in 2022, Colleen has cared for her mother with vascular dementia.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Years of autobiographical writing edged towards a childhood or coming-of-age memoir. During COVID, I heard the frustration of a young mother on the other side of my townhouse wall, caught up in home-schooling during lockdowns. I felt empathy for her and the many other parents thrown, with little warning, into roles they hadn’t wanted. I remembered how hard it was to be with my children for twenty-four hours a day, and how much I failed, though I dearly wanted to home-educate them and could focus on it almost full-time. I loved being able to choose a tailored eclectic curriculum, which included writing history studies when I couldn’t find what I wanted. But in a failing marriage, my parenting journey became so difficult I wanted to run away. With the option to live with their dad, my children rejected me. After reconnecting and growing closer to my beautiful two, I wanted to offer parents hope for their future with their children.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Soon after starting my memoir, I began a title document. Early attempts used sources Marion Roach Smith suggested. Now I’ve written seven pages of many single-spaced titles, with riffs on minor variations. I often review my title, especially when looking for a better one. I replaced another title I like with Am I a Good Mother? as I learnt to tell a major scene of the book in an online story workshop. A fellow writer related to my musing ‘Am I a good mother?’ I realised this was a question every mother asks herself at least once, which mothers continue to confirm.

It has taken much longer to find a good subtitle. After I began working on my memoir structure a year ago, I decided on a variation of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found for my current title, Am I a Good Mother? From Rejection to Reconnection.

Describe your dream book cover.

This still evades me. Considering other parenting memoirs, I wonder if an image of my children and me, along with one or more important metaphors, such as the bottlebrush trees in our local area, may be suitable.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

‘Brave’ by Sara Bareilles, which also encourages me to write honestly. For quieter or reflective sections, the sounds of crashing waves or running water. These relax me.

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

As I seek my memoir story structure, I read many writing craft books and articles. I’m working through Allison K Williams’ 7 Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book, John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story and Sue William Silverman’s Acetylene Torch Songs: Writing True Stories to Ignite the Soul.

Most weeks, I read Kindle samples of appealing or recommended books. Most are memoirs. This week’s promising samples include Love’s Journey Home by Gabi Coatsworth and two novels, Sleep Before Evening by Magdalena Ball and The Glass House by Anne Buist and Graeme Simsion. If I can’t put a sample down, I occasionally buy the Kindle copy immediately (not a healthy option as I’ll likely read all night). I prefer physical copies to hold in my hands, mark up quickly and refer to easily from my shelves or piles. These I buy when needed, but more often add to my wish list to buy when low on comfort reads or when I have more time to read.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

In my last years as a full-time physiotherapist, I helped my husband set up a cloth-cutting company and took on part-time secretary duties, some of which I continued to do while home-educating my children. During massage therapy training, I worked as a part-time educator of a friend’s son for about four years.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

Writing was something I enjoyed by the time I was seven years old, encouraged by the Australian ABC Argonauts radio show. Though I’d like to deny it, I probably love reading more than writing. Through my emotional teen and early adult years, poetry poured out of me. As an older adult with more time to think about writing, I recognised the books I loved most were memoirs or biographies. These have helped me make life decisions, such as becoming a physiotherapist, and lead to major realisations. I write to find the truth about my life, to understand myself better, to become a better person and to share what God has blessed me with on my life’s journey.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Overlooking the ocean, though it’s more often a source of inspiration as I don’t get to the ocean or beach as much as I’d like. Travel tires me and adds to my health issues.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Most days, I aim to find ways to listen to or read about the craft of writing, as well as read other books, especially memoirs which I think will relate to my life. These often stimulate insights and writing but sometimes distract me from writing.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

The one thing I want for readers is hope for a closer relationship with their child or children, no matter how impossible this connection seems. My perfect reader would be a mother in a dysfunctional failing or failed family with children growing towards and into their teens and early adult years.

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