Money for Something: Sex Work. Drugs. Need. Life. By Mia Walsch (Echo Publishing $29.99)
Reviewed by Aponi Kailash
Content warnings: suicide attempt, self-harm, drug-use (injection and otherwise). Please keep yourself safe.
Sex sells. Life… now that is harder to profit from.
When reviewing a memoir, commenting on somebody’s narrative in its raw and emotion-filled glory is challenging. Difficulty arises when, as is the case of Mia Walsch’s debut memoir, Money for Something, the author’s experiences are completely unique from your own. It is these personal elements conveyed in memoirs, however, that enable insights into lives and situations one might never experience. The promise of learning about others’ untold stories captured my innate curiosity and allowed me to delve into Walsch’s world.
Money for Something is about the closure of a chapter in Walsch’s life. It presents a conclusion to memories faded after the passing of many years, the haze of drugs and taste of grapeseed oil.
Walsch’s memoir chronicles the beginnings of her career in sex work. She is unapologetic about her foundations and does not sugar-coat the realities of her work. Life’s rollercoaster of rises and falls quickly become full-blown loop-de-loops as Walsch candidly presents the desires, trials and tribulations of her formative years. Walsch lays bare episodes of her life, from dabbling in ‘exotic massage’ to working in dungeons, her struggles with relationships, drug use and the ins-and-out of the sex industry. Empathy is easily facilitated between author and reader. Confronting topics are discussed tactfully and Walsch’s progression through her various stages of life feel strangely uplifting as she develops her own sense of self.
The memoir itself is well paced with a robust and engaging personal voice. Walsch divides her story into eight chapters and an epilogue, with short paragraphs that facilitate easy reading and retain readers’ attention. ‘Characters’ come across as believable representations of their real counterparts, as despite the personal skew, Walsch expresses high levels of self-reflection and objectivity. This reveals her physical and mental distance from this period of her life, which additionally instils a sense of validity in her narrative and credibility in her account of events and people.
Despite being unable to relate to her experience, I found that many truths that hit home. I was particularly struck by the line, “if only I don’t want it too much, it won’t hurt if I don’t get it.” In a world where ambition is paramount, fear of failure and expectations can present shrinking ones desire as a better option than truly wanting something.
When I call Walsch for an interview, she is open and easy-going in our discussion. Despite our nearly twenty-year age difference, conversation flows readily, particularly about our pets (two cats for her, an evil bird for me!) and her views of writing. Writing is her craft and as such, Walsch writes not to simply tell her story but to write.
Walsch is generous with her advice, and offers the following insights that I thought could be pertinent to budding writers:
No writing is ever wasted.
Like many others, I struggle with starting my creative pursuits. However, I was placated by the knowledge that Walsch too finds it difficult to write on occasion. Sometimes just getting words down on paper, even if it seems like the worst thing you have ever written, it is a valuable part of the process.
Writing is a skill; natural talent only gets you so far.
Like anything I suppose, practice is essential. Honing one’s craft and developing writing proficiency is fundamental to becoming an accomplished writer.
Surround yourself with other writers.
Walsch highlighted that she benefitted greatly from being around people who shared her love of writing. It was establishing friendships within these circles of creativity that further infused passion in her.
Go to workshops!
Find local, national or international workshops and get involved. Making connections with like-minded individuals and learning from industry professionals are great ways to improve your skills.
So, to all you future writers, creators, artists – hell, anyone that doesn’t think they have what it takes to give something your all. Take this as your sign. Write that book. Finish that painting. Audition for that part. If we can take away anything from this devastatingly special memoir, let it be that more unique voices need to be heard.
Author photo credits: Breeana Dunbar
Mia Walsch is an author from Melbourne, Australia. She studied Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong and has previously published three novels, the first of which won a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Something for Nothing (Echo Publishing $29.99) is her first non-fiction book.