Kellie Arrowsmith was a country girl whose idea of a hairdo was tying a ponytail whenever she wanted to go horse riding. But in her early twenties she left her sleepy hometown of Albury on the NSW/Victoria border for the bright lights of the Gold Coast, and soon found herself working in a succession of unexciting jobs just to keep up with her now-glamorous lifestyle.
After spending two years as a frazzled receptionist for an adult entertainment agency, Kellie decided to stop booking the jobs and start taking them. So it was that she found herself travelling to Gove, a mining town in East Arnhem Land, where she had her first stint as a skimpy: a barmaid who wears not much clothing for big money. Skimpies can work in the NT, in WA, in the Hunter Valley of NSW - wherever there's a bunch of blokes with a fly-in fly-out lifestyle who enjoy a cold beer at the end of their shift.
Kellie thought her new job would take her all round the country, but she hadn't planned on falling in love - not with Dave, a rough-and-tumble outback character with a big heart and the world's worst four-wheel-drive, and not with the Northern Territory way of life. But she did, and instead of diamonds and dust, Kellie got crocodiles and denim cut-offs - and a whole lot of stories to tell about a side of outback life that's a long way off the beaten track.
After growing up in regional New South Wales, Kellie Arrowsmith moved to the Gold Coast, where she spent several years before working a stint as a skimpy barmaid in Gove, Arnhem Land, NT. Fascinated by the Top End and the people she met there, Kellie soon left the Gold Coast for Gove, then Darwin, and in between made a couple of road trips down through the middle of Australia, accompanied only by Chaos, her faithful pit bull. She has worked as a skimpy in Broome and Kalgoorlie, as well as doing some quite different work for Darwin's Hot 100 FM. Before leaving the Territory for New South Wales, Kellie collected hilarious - and often outrageous - stories of crocodiles, snakes and incredible NT characters. Kellie now lives near Newcastle, NSW, with her daughter.
Author: Kellie Arrowsmith
Question: What inspired you to write your story?
Kellie Arrowsmith: In 2012 I created a blog about my life in the Northern Territory and the hilarious stories often featured in the NT News. After a while, a few friends suggested I do more with it and I decided to turn my blog posts into a memoir.
Question: What is a Skimpy?
Kellie Arrowsmith: A skimpy is a nickname for girls who work in pubs in skimpy clothing and receive tips to strip to their bikini or lingerie. These pubs are usually in mining town pubs where the lifestyle is FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) and the blokes are away from their family and friends. Skimpies brighten up their day and provide entertainment.
Question: What did you learn about yourself when writing Skimpy?
Kellie Arrowsmith: So many things! Reading through the book I sometimes can't believe the things I have done! I think it made me realise how moving to the Northern Territory really helped me grow as a person. I also realised that if you are truly passionate about something and it consumes your life (in a good way!) then you will most likely succeed.
Question: Can you talk us through your writing experience?
Kellie Arrowsmith: I found my first draft not long ago and laughed. After I'd written the first draft I really thought that was it, that I was finished writing. But after I hired a freelance editor I realised I had heaps of work to do. After a few more months I sent the revised version off to an agent, Virginia Lloyd, who loved it - but again, she told me there was still a bit to do. She worked with me to develop the manuscript and on Christmas Eve I got the news that Hachette were offering to publish it. Best Chrissy present ever!
Question: What do you hope readers take from this book?
Kellie Arrowsmith: I hope it encourages people who haven't explored this amazing country - especially the Top End - to get out there and have a look. There's also a lot of miss perception around Skimpies. I think it's a great way to make money, it's fun and it's safe. It's also an excellent way to travel Australia and get paid big bucks to do so!
Interview by Brooke Hunter