The worst is over

I did not freeze up at my book launch, as I had feared I might.

From the moment I walked through the double doors of Readings book shop and down towards the section where they had pushed aside the CD stands to make room for people, and thereby created an open space, with a row of chairs to one side around a central pillar and to the other side a mock bar from which they served wine, I felt at ease.

From the moment I walked past three women seated to one side, one of whom I recognised as an old school friend from over forty years ago and the other two, also old school friends, the atmosphere became one of fun, family and friendship.

Photo Lee Zelda Hunt

Mike, event organiser from Readings, when I had met him earlier in the week to discuss logistics, told me Readings look upon book launches as a reason to party and that was the spirit he aimed to inculcate.

Photo Russell Davis

And so it was: one jolly party interrupted by two speeches only, my own and that of Gerald Murnane, who as Mike quipped to me later, gave us all a short Master Class on literature.

Photo Nada Lane

To me it was Gerald Murnane at his best, witty, oratorical and sincere.

His talk set the mood and made it easy for me to have my five minutes worth and then my dear friend, Nada Lane, whom I had asked – or had she offered – to be master of ceremonies even managed to stoke a few questions from the audience before we went onto that strangest of strange experiences, the book signing.

I signed Gerald’s copy first and he said something to me about how the tables had turned. Usually, it was he seated there at the black table cloth covered signing table looked over by the person – me –  who had just bought his book and was eager for him to sign.

Now it was my turn.

I had dreaded this part of proceedings.

My handwriting tends to the illegible and I imagined myself fumbling for names but it went well and one person even remarked on my beautiful handwriting.

Never, not even in childhood when I tried hard, has anyone ever told me my handwriting is beautiful and I lapped up that moment along with many others.

Photo Russell Davis

For now, I’m relieved to know it’s over till the next time, next weekend when I join another four people among others at a Gala book launch in Brisbane to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Interactive Publications, my publisher.

This will be easier.

Usually, I prefer to share the limelight, to dip in and out of the glare.  To take my turn and then hurry back behind the scenes.

Always, I prefer to be here behind the scenes writing to you out there, the words on the page, the actual stars.  When I can get them right.

Exit the nunnery

I’m fighting off a cold, sore throat, sore ear and all the rest, so my husband recommended I take some apple cider vinegar. A cure-all he reckons, rather like ti tree oil on cuts and rashes.

I’m in the countdown to my book launch and determined to stay well enough to get through.

It’s a surreal space in which to sit.

All these years of writing, revising and re-working. All these years of imagining that one day I will produce a book.

Like giving birth to a baby and just as it is after the birth of a baby, all being well and the baby being healthy, there is a sense of where to from here?

How will this book baby evolve?

I dreamed last night of my favourite nun back at the convent on a hot summer’s day. She was dressed in full regalia. I was fanning myself and complaining about the heat.

‘It must be ten times worse for you,’ I said to the nun. She looked down into the folds of her black habit and brushed a hand across her forehead, what forehead she could reach under her wimple, and wiped away the sweat.

Then someone came along and offered to interview her in an advertisement for makeup. She needed to take off her nun’s garb for the role and wound up in blouse and skirt seated in front of the cameras. She wore lipstick and was transformed until the Reverend Mother came along.

The nun in civvies had no time even to wipe off the makeup and the reverend mother walked towards her with an archbishop in tow. The two spoke sternly to the nun and after they had gone I asked how it went.

‘I have to leave,’ she said. ‘They don’t want me any more.’

‘That’s a good thing,’ I said, but she looked as though she needed convincing. She could stay with us, I told her but realised she would not enjoy staying at home with my father while he was drinking at night.

‘I’m staying with Charles,’ the nun said. Charles was the father of one of the girls from school who had separated from his wife. He had offered her a room ages ago, and I was surprised but woke to the alarm before I had a chance to discuss it further.

I have a strange sense that coming out with my book is like a coming out in other ways too.

Like leaving the convent, leaving the constrictors of religious life and finding new ways of being.