Interview – Jennifer Severn

This author interview follows my review of Jennifer Severn’s new memoir: Long Road To Dry River, a few days ago. You can read the review Here.

In these unusual times when we are all committed to staying indoors and social distancing, this interview was conducted via email, which didn’t allow interactive conversation. This means my questions were constructed in advance (as they should be anyway), Jennifer scribed her answers instead of voicing them and there were no spontaneously interim discussions like we’ve become accustomed to in podcasts with authors.

This does not, however, lessen the potency of the author’s answers to my questions. Her candour and interesting comments, coupled with the content of my review, will intrigue you and whet your appetite for more of the engaging narrative which she has so well executed in Long Road Do Dry River.

Interview: Jennifer Severn – Long Road To Dry River

1)   The narrative in Long Road To Dry River explores three areas of your life – your childhood, the evolution of your personal and spiritual journey, and the diagnosis and unfolding challenges of life with MS… culminating in finding a place to belong. I’m curious about what in particular was the impetus for you to write this book.

Kathryn, yes, finding a place to belong is the most important aspect for me.

As for impetus, I probably started this book three times. After a conversation with my solicitor in 2001, which became the prologue, I thought, There might just be a book in this … And there were pages of jottings, old memories, that came into being in a long-ago writers’ group in Quaama. But the first time I remember actually planning to write a book was in 2012 when I embarked on a new MS diet that I really believed was going to cure me. I thought, I’d better document this because many people with MS are going to benefit from it. In other words, it was going to be a ‘Recovery Memoir’. Of course it didn’t turn out that way—but publishing consultant Mary Cunnane, who mentored me through the end stages of the project, agreed with me that it wouldn’t have been as interesting if I’d been cured!


2)   What is your favourite part of the narrative/favourite scene? Why?

There are a couple of lighter moments—the naked skydiving scene is one, and maybe the marriage proposal at Gate Three of Indira Gandhi Airport, Delhi. But there’s also one near the end, at my brother’s wedding reception, where I talk to my father after an eighteen-year estrangement, with a very surprising outcome. That’s one of my favourites because at the time of that event, in 2016, I was trying to finish the book but knew that I just couldn’t finish it without at least trying to talk to Dad. And no spoilers, but it paid off.


3)   Was this the easiest part of the manuscript to write? If not, what was … and why?

Those three all just tumbled onto the page. Maybe that’s why they’re my favourites!


4)   What was the most difficult part/scene to write? Why?

Definitely the final days of my beloved dog Harley. Even when proofing I found myself wanting to skip that part. In the book I acknowledge the difficulty of writing about Harley’s death, and speculate as to why. I think I had very high expectations of myself as a dog-owner, and I let him down.


5)   Long Road To Dry River is written in three distinct sections/parts, which form a framework supporting the interwoven threads that bring the narrative together by the last page. I am interested in the process that led you to this skilfully executed structure.

Kathryn, that’s interesting. Until almost the final draft the story started with my parents meeting on the Willem Ruys on the way from London to Sydney. Then Mary Cunnane suggested I break it into parts and start it somewhere more dramatic, and I chose what I saw as a ‘pivot point’ – a taxi ride that changed my life. Part One ends with me about to meet my father after our first long estrangement and that required some backstory—I had to explain my parents’ marriage and my early family life, thus Part Two. Then Part Three starts with that meeting with Dad—and finishes with another one, after another long estrangement.

Just trying to articulate the structure has brought home to me, again, how critical my father is to my story.


6)   How did you reconcile the fact that to write your own story you have to touch on aspects of other people’s lives?

Yes, none of us is an island. I like to think I have covered events in my life truthfully. I thought, well if anyone remembers things differently they can write their own memoir. But now that all my close family members have read the book, and no-one differs seriously with my representation, I think I got it right. I definitely haven’t lost any relationships out of it, and I’m breathing a bit easier. In fact it has led to some interesting—and rewarding—conversations.

For other events concerning non-family members, I did change some names in case it caused any upset. But I’d like to think it might flush out some people from my past I’ve lost touch with—even if just to argue with me!


7)   Memoirs can take years to write. How long did Long Road To Dry River take to write?

As I said before, some parts I wrote twenty years ago. But seriously, I finished the first draft about six years ago. It’s taken longer than I thought it would.


8)   What would be your advice to anyone about to embark on the journey of writing a memoir?

My advice would be, just do it! But I would also suggest that you examine your objectives. If it’s a device to settle scores, put it away until you’ve dealt with your resentments. And don’t be tempted to leave out the bad bits either – the bits that cast you in a less-than-favourable light. This isn’t Facebook!


9)   Now that this book is finished and published, do you have another writing project bubbling away and luring you to the keyboard?

Possibly. There was a novel I was working on before the memoir, and one day I’ll have another look at that. It’s about the inhabitants of a small town in dairy country, believe it or not…


Thank you, Jennifer Severn, for the opportunity to interview you for this Blog and to share information about your new memoir. I wish you well with this book, and encourage anyone who has even a whiff of interest to go ahead and read your story. They will not be disappointed.


Jennifer Severn’s – Long Road To Dry River – is available via her website:

It was shortlisted for the Finch Prize for Memoir in 2018.


If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will not be passed on to any third party and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.

I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section on this page.

Book Review: Memoir

A First For This Blog

Today I have decided to post a book review, which I wrote after reading a recently released memoir. The potent narrative moved me to delve deeper and I wanted to share this experience with you, so here we are…

Long Road To Dry River by Jennifer Severn

None of us can know where life’s journey will take us. We can see where we might be heading and even plan for a different route, but there is always the possibility a curveball will derail our expectations… sometimes there are several curveballs to field.

Jennifer Severn knows about curveballs. She has gathered the strength to meet them head-on and navigate through them, and the courage to make the most of the experience and learn the life lessons they lay bare before her.

Long Road To Dry River is her chronicle of this journey, told with the same daring honesty and heartfelt spirit she has mustered to traverse it.

‘Long Road’ gives a first impression of distance travelled, places lived or visited. There are many of these: a childhood in the idyllic surrounds of the Northern Beaches of Sydney, time spent at university and forging a career as a medical sales representative in Sydney, and living in Melbourne, India and Amsterdam.

The narrative tells of these places, yes, but the long road referred to in the title is so much more. There is the deeper story of the twists, turns and roadblocks encountered as the determined young woman charges forth from a disruptive and painful childhood to carve her place in the world.

Her urgent need for a different life gains momentum when a fortuitous meeting in a taxi catapults her onto the path of self-discovery, a decade earlier than most confront their demons from childhood. Thus, the upwardly-mobile corporate-attired Jennifer begins to share each day with her other self, Marga Sahi, the Rajneesh follower, living with her new partner in a shared household in Rose Bay, Sydney.

Her journey continues through life in ashrams, therapy sessions and structured groupwork, all the while confronting hurtful family behaviours and her own issues.

Just as she is taking control of her life and bursting into emotional freedom, she is broadsided by a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and also a legal battle of the calibre no one wants to have thrust upon them.

All that has come before is brought into perspective when the author moves past the hostility levelled at her during the legal process and the hurt it brought, settles near Dry River and moves into a fulfilling life despite living with MS.

Long Road To Dry River is beautifully written. There is a sense the author is speaking directly to the reader. She has skilfully interwoven threads of her life across several decades through Parts One, Two and Three of the narrative, without totally separating the three distinct time periods. The spiritual journey that is flagged in the first few pages is deconstructed, examined and restored to form a bridge connecting her urban beginnings and the ultimate feeling of truly belonging in her chosen small community.

Unflinchingly truthful, insightful, poignant and daring, this is a rare read. Although several clinical volumes are available on the subject of MS, there are few personal accounts of the wallop of the diagnosis, coming to terms with all that this means, and facing the challenges it presents. Such accounts by Australian authors are almost non-existent… only one other such memoir comes to mind.

Besides being an exploration and heartfelt sharing of the author’s experience, the work reviewed here is informative and will no doubt raise awareness of the symptoms, trials and management treatments available. The result will be increased community understanding.

Long Road To Dry River highlights universal themes. It will appeal to those who themselves have MS or a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with it, and anyone who has had life as they know it turned upside down by any chronic debilitating disorder/illness or other significant event that will have a negative impact on their future abilities.

Interest will also be stirred in those who recognise they are/may be from a dysfunctional family… are there any families that are not dysfunctional in one way or another? Anyone who seeks solace through personal development or spiritual awakening will find much between these pages to satisfy their thirst.

Long Road To Dry River is a gutsy, inspirational memoir that will surprise, shock and sometimes sadden any reader who accompanies the author through the pain, uncertainties and challenges of life both before and through the experience of her ultimate curveball – Multiple Sclerosis.

It is not surprising Long Road to Dry River was shortlisted for the Finch Prize for Memoir in 2018.


Jennifer Severn’s – Long Road To Dry River – is available via her website:


You can read my interview with Jennifer Severn Here


If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will not be passed on to any third party and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.


I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section on this page.

An Egg Is An Egg ~ Or Is It?

‘How come we have an Easter Bunny and not an Easter Chicken?’ I asked in innocence when I was four (1955).

‘The bunny’s the boss and brings the chicken along with him to lay the eggs. It’s a special chicken that can lay a lot of eggs in one day… not just one like our chickens’, my mother replied.

I believed her, as I believed everything she told me. She didn’t tell lies, my mother.




Easter Egg Preferences


Easter 1976

Winter pyjamas hang on bodies

tossled hair falls about shoulders.

My children flash white teeth

send stars forth from their eyes

as they stand beside the boxed

Humpty Dumpty eggs

and a basket of smaller

chocolate offerings.




No photograph to remind me

of Easters past:

painting hard-boiled eggs with water colours

helping siblings design one for each of us

or competing with them        to see

who could draw the happiest face

to smile from the egg-cup        and

not wanting to chop off

the top of an egg’s head        and tears

when first told I must.


With dexterity came permission

to drive pin holes

in each end of fresh eggs

and blow the contents away

leaving shells to be painted

for long-lasting decorations.



Our 1950s Easter Bunny

brought two-toned sugar eggs

in pastels and white

joined in the middle

with rock-hard icing        wrinkled

into a pattern around the edge

and a dab to hold a gold paper bunny

flat on top.


Small pieces of broken eggs rattled inside

or     if we were lucky

conversation lollies with messages

were found when we ate the icing

and the egg fell in two        or

when this was too hard for young teeth

and we resorted to smashing the egg

into manageable pieces.


If we were very lucky

one of these sugar scrolls        marked

Forget Me Not        Smile For Me    

or        Love Me Tender

would be heart-shaped.


We savoured these once-a-year treats

making them last all day

sometimes several days

to shorten the 365

between bunny visits.



Chocolate eggs first graced our table

as I stumbled into adolescence.

Confusion reigned each following year:

My parents preferred sugar eggs

said they were the ‘real’ eggs

available only once a year ~

the inference that chocolate

was constantly in abundance

didn’t ring true        in a home

with no money for sweets

on ordinary days.


Sugar eggs remained most years

until I could buy my own

then drifted from the market

and my mind    

replaced by a selection

of chocolate Easter treats.



Mid-1980s        my children

showed me the ‘new’ sugar eggs

and asked for them

‘instead of boring chocolate’.


I didn’t bother explaining

that chocolate eggs

were the real treat ~


I knew they wouldn’t understand.




Easter 2020 is a low-key affair at my place, as it has been for many years. Sugar eggs have come and gone from the market, but chocolate eggs have remained constant. Chocolate Easter Bunnies have even hopped onto the shelves and settled amongst the eggs to tempt little children with big imaginations. These days eggs come in numerous sizes with various fillings, and are available for months prior to Easter instead of just the last week before the bunny drops in, as was the tradition in my childhood.

With age, my desire for Easter eggs has waned and I am happy to share a bowl of tiny – even if, solid – chocolate eggs with my husband.

Easter Treats 2020



I would value your thoughts and feedback in the Comments section on this page.


If you would like to be notified each time I post on my website, please enter your email address under the heading Follow My Blog, on the bottom of the right-hand column on any page. Your email address will not be passed on to any third party and no other information is required. This is a free service to ensure you don’t miss new posts.