During a recent book event I was asked, What’s the best thing about being published? My response was to sit speechless for several seconds. I found it hard to narrow down to one thing, as there have been so many wonderful experiences (as well as a few stressful/upsetting times too – being completely honest here!).
My mind jumped to a month or so before publication, when my dad read a story in the collection. I wondered if he’d be able to relate to the main characters, or even find them interesting. But his comment showed me he’d settled inside their heads, and empathised with them both. Dad said, It’s really about two damaged people, finding solace in one another. His words proved to me (yet again) that stories hold great power.
Another highlight was when my writing group came to the book launch, all dressed in yellow (or with yellow accessories). Having them there, and especially seeing them decked out in the book’s cover colour, was something I won’t ever forget.
High school friends and work colleagues and uni mates and relatives and fellow writers also came to the book events at Avid Reader bookshop, including people I’d only ever chatted to on social media. My brother flew in from interstate, and friends drove from the Gold Coast. The bookstore even sold a cocktail named Fiona’s Fizz 😊 All this was such a demonstration of human kindness and it floored me.
I’ve loved hearing from family and friends about their favourite stories – often ones I worried wouldn’t have enough appeal. I think what thrills me most about this is not their story choices (though that does fascinate me) but simply the fact they’ve done me the huge honour of reading my work.
It’s been incredible to see If You’re Happy in bookstores around Australia, with friends and Twitter pals sending me photos of the book in shops and libraries, or in their homes.
A good friend sent me a gorgeous ‘book necklace’ which is one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received (thank you so much Louise).
And something truly magical has been reconnecting with my high school English teacher (who must by now be in her late seventies or even early eighties). I sent her a copy of the book a couple of weeks ago, with a note thanking her for what she taught us – which was not to accept lazy work, not to write something adequate and then expect a good mark. She pushed us to do better, to extend ourselves beyond what we thought was possible. That work ethic is still with me today, and it helped me write the book.
I received a lovely reply from my teacher last week. She thanked me for the card and gift, said she was healthy and enjoying life, and that she was looking forward to reading If You’re Happy. It was an amazing moment – to discover my high school English teacher was well, and to know I’d been able to thank her for a lesson never forgotten.
Now to nervously await my grade 😜