Defining Forty – Stephanie Small

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Stephanie Small is a working single mother who lives in Sawtell. She is just about to release her first book, Defining Forty, which is an inspirational and revealing story about 16 regular women. We find out more.

> Stephanie, yours is an inspirational story. Give us an idea of your background.

I’ve always been a hard worker, starting in advertising and then moving into the Arts, as a fundraiser. I ran my own sponsorship consultancy for a number of years and set up a small not-for-profit organisation that worked closely between Kids Help Line and the corporate sector.

At 38 years of age, however, I found myself as a single mum trying to juggle the work / life balance dilemma in Sydney and decided things needed to change.

I moved to Sawtell, just south of Coffs Harbour, in December 2006, still with my Sydney job. That was soon to end, and I finally gave myself permission to do something creative.

I started a digital photography course at TAFE and found my passion.

> What changed when you turned 40?

The real change for me happened when I was 39. I was living in a new town and for the first time in my life found myself unemployed. No longer defined by a job, nor a husband for that matter, I made time to reflect on what sort of person I wanted to be and what sort of life I wanted to live.

I wanted to be fully present and live consciously. I finally surrendered control and decided to see what the universe had planned for me.

> Tell us about your Digital Media course, and why you decided to do it.

When I finished my photography course, my creative side had been awakened – and a Digital Media course was on offer at TAFE. I was the typical mature-age-over-achieving student and made the course work for me.

I was able to design my website and all the promotional materials for my photography business and learn what I needed to know about the business side as well.

> You’re about to launch your first book, Defining Forty. How did this come about?

Defining Forty was another product to come out of my TAFE experience. I had a photography assignment where I had to photograph the naked body in the landscape.

Defining Forty

Defining Forty

My friend, Jane, obligingly agreed to be my model and after friends saw the results, decided they too would be photographed nude if they looked that good.

As we are all aged somewhere in our forties, which apparently is the age where life begins, the seed for the book was sown.  Now, three years and 16 brave women later, it is a reality.

> Tell us about some of the women you’ve profiled in the book.

These women are my circle of friends – the keepers that I have collected along the way. I have photographed each of them for the book, and they have written their stories.

They are listed in the book chronologically from the age I was when we met. Helen, Nicola, Tracie and Lee I met at school; Nelly, Sami and Jane through work; some I met through friends; some through being a mum. Eight of the women live here on the Coffs Coast, so I feel that this is not only a book about real women, but local women as well.

> How do you hope Defining Forty will influence regular women?

For me, Defining Forty is a celebration of female friendship and of real women. When Julie Goodwin, from Masterchef fame, was asked to write the foreword for Defining Forty, she ended up writing her own story – which is exactly what I hope the book inspires.

I want women to look to their own circle of friends for inspiration, instead of the unattainable world often presented in the media. I want women to reflect on their own lives and to be grateful for who they are and what they have.

It’s definitely about the inner journey, rather than the externals.

> What have you learned in the process?

More than anything, Defining Forty has shown me that everyone has a story to tell.  When I asked each friend to join me in this project, I was surprised by how many agreed. Hearing their stories in their own words has been an absolute privilege for me. I learned things about them that I didn’t know.

Defining Forty

Defining Forty

I laughed, I cried and I stood in awe of their honesty and bravery in tackling the task. To be able to capture this in print has meant the world to me, and Defining Forty will live on as a testament to friendship and to this remarkable period in a woman’s life.

> Tell us about the book launch and exhibition.

The Defining Forty book launch and photographic exhibition will open on Thursday 30 September from 6pm – 8.30pm at the Jetty Memorial Theatre in Coffs Harbour, with the exhibition showing for the month of October.

Defining Forty makes the ideal present for the special women in your life. It retails for $24.95 and is available online at        and at selected bookstores and retail outlets.

> Thank you Stephanie.

For more information on the book launch and exhibition, phone Stephanie on 0421 346 713.

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One Response to Defining Forty – Stephanie Small

  1. Mark says:

    Thanks for the article.

    Being 40 myself, living with the question “whereto from here?” I agree that there is a real place for looking at those around us to find inspiration.

    Everyone does have a story to tell and it helps me a lot to see real people doing real things with their lives.

    Thanks again for the article and I hope that you do well with your book Stephanie.


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