Book cover for ‘How To Be a Woman’. Photo by Chris Floyd, Cover design by Two Associates, reproduced by courtesy of Ebury Press.

Writer Watch

Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran was born on 5 April 1975 in Bristol and given the name Catherine Elizabeth Moran. At the age of thirteen, however, she read a Jilly Cooper novel in which there was a character called Caitlin. She liked the name so much she adopted it, but unfortunately she had never actually heard it spoken and insisted on pronouncing it ‘Catlin’, which only confused everybody. Her recently chosen nickname of ‘Puffin’ has, so far, also failed to get traction.

Caitlin is the eldest of eight children, with four brothers and three sisters. When the large family moved to a three-bedroom council house in Wolverhampton it was rather a tight squeeze, particularly since Caitlin was thirteen stone at the time. After being tormented by a bunch of yobs, who threw gravel and yelled insults at her on her thirteenth birthday, it was even too crowded for her to cry in peace. In her book How To Be a Woman, she explains:

‘I’ve tried crying in the house before – you explain why you’re crying to one person between the sobs, and then you’re only halfway through before someone else comes in, and needs to hear the story from the top again, and before you know it, you’ve told the worst bit six times, and wound yourself up into such an hysterical state you have hiccups for the rest of the afternoon.’

Caitlin attended Springdale Junior School but only managed three weeks of secondary school before the decision was made to home school her from the age of eleven. This gave her plenty of time to read a lot of books on feminism, primarily to convince her brother Eddie that scientific enquiry proved that she was better than he was. It soon became obvious, however, that the main person to be convinced of this was Caitlin.

‘...just as with winning the lottery, or becoming famous – there is no manual for becoming a woman, even though the stakes are so high. God knows, when I was thirteen, I tried to find one.

‘You can read about other people’s experiences on the matter – by way of trying to crib, in advance, for an exam – but I found that this is, in itself, problematic. For throughout history, you can read the stories of women who – against all the odds – got being a woman right, but ended up being compromised, unhappy, hobbled or ruined, because all around them, society was still wrong.

‘Show a girl a pioneering hero – Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Frida Kahlo, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc – and you also, more often than not, show a girl a woman who was eventually crushed.’

Caitlin certainly didn’t feel that she was doing a very good job of becoming a woman and turned to reading and writing for self expression instead. She won a Dillons young readers’ contest for an essay about ‘Why I like books’ in 1988, which was rewarded with £250 of book tokens and markedly increased her enthusiasm for the written word. The Observer named Caitlin ‘Young Reporter of the Year’ at the age of fifteen and her journalistic career began to take shape.

With a rock musician father, it was hardly surprising that Caitlin was able to combine her knowledge of music with her exceptional and precocious writing ability and, at the age of sixteen, she became a journalist for the weekly music publication Melody Maker.

At the age of sixteen Caitlin also penned her first book, The Chronicles of Narmo, partly inspired by having been home-schooled. In 1992 she launched herself into television, co-hosting with Johnny Vaughan, two series of Channel 4’s music show Naked City, which featured emerging British bands.

Caitlin then began to work for The Times as a columnist and, over the next eighteen years, has put in the hard yards writing  three columns a week, one for the Saturday Magazine, one as a TV critic, and the enormously popular satirical Friday column ‘Celebrity Watch’ in the most-read part of the paper. Her efforts won her the British Press Award (BPA) Columnist of the Year for 2010, and BPA Awards for both Critic of the Year and Interviewer of the Year in 2011.

On 13 July 2012, Caitlin Moran became a Fellow of Aberystwyth University, not bad for someone who was home-educated.

Luckily, her efforts to become a woman received a major boost when she met and later married The Times rock critic Peter Paphides in what turned out to be a nightmare wedding in Coventry in December 1999.

‘I don’t want to exaggerate but, by God, it was a bad wedding. Here I am, at 24, waiting to come down the aisle in my red velvet dress, with ivy in my hair. I look like Lady Bacchus, except for my feet. My lifelong curse of not being able to find shoes I can walk in extends even here, on my most glamorous day – under the satin-edged velvet, I’m wearing a manky pair of Doc Marten sandals.

‘My father is in a suit he shoplifted from Ciro Citterio, and some shoes he shoplifted from Burtons – but he looks calm,  wise, and not a little emotional about giving away his first child in marriage... “Darling girl,” he says, as the usher opens the door, and I see the whole congregation crane around to watch my entrance. “Darling love. Remember you’re a womble.”

‘I can’t remember anything about the ceremony. I spent the whole thing going, “Remember you’re a WOMBLE?” in my head, in outrage.’

Despite this inauspicious beginning, Peter and Caitlin managed to have two daughters, born in 2001 and 2003. In her book How To Be a Woman, Caitlin covers these experiences in the chapters, ‘Why You Should Have Children’ and ‘Why You Shouldn’t Have Children’. Most women can relate to both of these propositions, sometimes simultaneously.

How To Be a Woman was published by Ebury Press in 2011 and became an instant hit – the blurb was worth an award on its own: ‘Caitlin Moran rewrites The Female Eunuch from a bar stool and demands to know why pants are getting smaller’.

‘Why are we supposed to get Brazilians?’ Caitlin asks. ‘Should you get Botox? Do men secretly hate us? What should you call your vagina? Why does your bra hurt? And why does everyone ask you when you're going to have a baby?’

Caitlin Moran answers these questions and more in How To Be a Woman, which follows her through adolescence, the workplace, strip-clubs, love, fat, abortion, TopShop, motherhood and beyond.

Reviewer Simon Pegg said: ‘Moran's writing sparkles with wit and warmth. Like the confidences of your smartest friend’, and Nigella Lawson: ‘I adore, admire and – more – am addicted to Caitlin Moran's writing.

Not surprisingly, How To Be a Woman won two Galaxy National Book Awards in 2011: Book of the Year and Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year, plus the Irish Book Award in the Listeners’ Choice category.

In 2012 Caitlin’s fans were delighted to see publication of her newest book Moranthology, the first ever collection of her writing.

Caitlin says: ‘In How To Be a Woman, I was limited to a single topic: women... However! In my new book Moranthology – as the title suggests – I am set free to tackle THE REST OF THE WORLD: Ghostbusters, Twitter, caffeine, panic attacks, Michael Jackson’s memorial service, being a middle-class marijuana addict, Doctor Who, binge-drinking, Downton Abbey, pandas, my own tragically early death...

‘I go to a sex-club with Lady Gaga, cry on Paul McCartney’s guitar, get drunk with Kylie, appear on Richard & Judy as a gnome, climb into the Tardis, sniff Sherlock Holmes’s pillows at 221b Baker Street, write Amy Winehouse’s obituary, turn up late to Downing Street for Gordon Brown, and am rudely snubbed at a garden party by David Cameron – although that’s probably because I called him “A C3PO made of ham”. Fair enough.

‘And, in my spare time – between hangovers – I rant about the welfare state, library closures and poverty; like a shit Dickens or Orwell, but with tits.’

To find out more about Caitlin and her works, visit the websites below. To celebrate the publication of her new book there is a new look website and Caitlin says that you can now also get involved. ‘There is a bright shiny new forum on this website where you can post up your blogs, comment on other people’s creative activity or just post funny things you have seen on the internet.’

There’s nothing conventional about Caitlin Moran’s writing, but if you feel that you need an upgrade from Germaine Greer, do yourself a favour.

Website Watch

Caitlin Moran

1913 – ‘Suffragette throws herself under the King’s horse’. In 1969 – ‘Feminists storm Miss World’. Are women wimpier than they used to be? And why are pants getting smaller? These are the big questions in today’s world. Caitlin Moran rewrites The Female Eunuch from a bar stool to produce her book (part memoir and part rant) How to Be a Woman, a book to resonate with the modern woman. It won two 2011 Galaxy National Book Awards: one for Book of the Year and one for Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year, and also the Listeners Choice category in the Irish Book Awards.  A successor to Germaine Greer? You be the judge. Visit the website at, Post, Comment, Go Nuts and Have Fun… and follow Caitlin On Twitter and also Some Live Moran Please

And so say all of us! Thank you Anon.