This year I’m producing a series of six podcasts for the fabulous literary journal Kill Your Darlings. My first podcast tackles a curly and divisive question, and I sat down with three authors — Andrew Croome, Francesca Rendle-Short and Jack Heath — to find out their views. Andrew and Francesca have both written novels through university programs and taught the discipline. Jack Heath, on the other hand, began studying creative writing at university but left after a semester. What with promoting his first book and writing his second Jack didn’t have much spare time. I found these authors’ differing thoughts fascinating and you can listen in on our conversations below.
It’s taken me a while to write about The Invisible Thread launch (others have already beaten me to it here and here). Why, you might ask? Well, launches are funny things. You build towards them — in this case for three years — with great anticipation. The event itself zips by, a blur of faces and book signings and congratulations. Usually you eat and drink nothing. You don’t spend more than five minutes with any one person and yet you don’t manage to talk to everyone. And then — suddenly — it’s all over. The End. Of course it’s just the beginning for the book, but the launch is like a line in the sand. It’s the end of a long and involved creative process, of bringing The Invisible Thread into being.
At the launch, artist Victoria Lees gave me a pep talk. ‘Now, you’re going to feel depressed,’ she said. ‘You’ve been working so hard. Just expect it, go with it.’ At least I think that’s what she said. In retrospect those two hours have taken on a dream-like quality. She was right, of course. I’d been madly planning and organising the launch while also doing publicity for the book and finalising the ACT Writers Showcase website. I’d been running on adrenalin for weeks; a crash was inevitable.
On the morning of the launch I drove out through Queanbeyan, past fields of yellow flowers, the spike of the Telstra Tower in the distance. I collected the cake, a replica of the book, and placed it carefully in the boot of my car. It was already 30-something degrees and I worried about it melting before I reached home. Yet I drove slowly, also worried that a sudden slam of the brakes would splatter it everywhere. I made it back without incident. My nine-year-old thought it was the most amazing thing she’d ever laid eyes on and took a gazillion photos of it. (Later, at the launch, one person thought it was a cloth version of the book and actually tried to open it, a testament to its authenticity.)
After I’d dropped the older kids at school, Advisory Committee member Clare McHugh phoned and asked if I had heard that electrical storms were predicted for the afternoon. I hadn’t; cue mild panic. The stats revealed a 40 per cent chance that it would rain. That meant a 60 per cent chance that it wouldn’t. I had to bank on the 60. We had a wet weather contingency plan but it wouldn’t have been nearly so atmospheric as the courtyard with its grand 100-year-old oak tree, stripy deck chairs, orange umbrellas, wood panelled stage, and the thread artwork we commissioned Victoria Lees to create.
By afternoon rain still hadn’t struck and, as anticipated, the NewActon Courtyard proved to be the perfect place for our celebration. Around 150 people packed the space, creating a real buzz, as the Wicked Strings ensemble set the mood. Alex Sloan was a warm and gracious MC, and as guest speaker Underbelly writer Felicity Packard made personal and profound connections with the anthology. Four of the Thread writers read their work: Blanche d’Alpuget, who flew in for just a few hours to be there; Meredith McKinney, Judith Wright’s daughter; Advisory Committee member and poet Adrian Caesar; and Francesca Rendle-Short who flew in from Melbourne. I got to stand up and thank everyone who helped make the book and its associated projects a reality. It was a big moment for me. As I explained, it’s been a privilege to work with so many dedicated and talented individuals. I also launched the ACT Writers Showcase, a comprehensive website of ACT authors and the first site of its kind in Australia. Conceived by the Advisory Committee, I’ve been developing it with Greg Gould of Blemish Books. It’s been a massive undertaking and I’m so thrilled that we’ve been able to create such a terrific resource.
Chair of the Advisory Committee, Anne-Maree Britton, presented me with flowers — a lovely and unexpected surprise (this was not in the launch rundown that I had so meticulously planned!). Alex Sloan wrapped up and suggested everyone buy the book as Christmas presents (now there’s a brilliant idea), and Wicked Strings played again while everyone ate, drank and were merry. Victoria’s Invisible Thread artwork captivated, and the Thread cake was demolished. It was all pretty damn wonderful. As one guest proclaimed, it was ‘the best atmosphere at a literary event ever’.
That night I came home, kicked off my heels, ate left over Thread cake (the tastiest book I’ve ever eaten), drank a cup of tea and thought, ‘Oh.’ The flat feeling took hold. The remedy, I told myself, was to spend the next few days reading books and drinking tea, strictly no work.
Of course this didn’t happen, but as I worked a stream of complimentary emails about the launch and the book began arriving. Words like ‘spectacular’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘very special’ helped a little in shifting the post-launch blues.
There’s still work to be done. Lots of it. But I’ve promised myself a break over Christmas. A real one, without email and Facebook and Twitter. I’m telling myself I can do it.
For fabulous launch pics by ‘pling click here.