23 July 1991
31 years old
31 years old
Wayzgoose*, a book of humorous prose and poetry will be launched Tuesday 23 at the Gershwin Room, Esplanade Hotel, St Kilda. 8pm
* noun. printing-house's annual festivity
I'm trying to win my own heart ...
... to write something to fall in love with and to have it published. Jono suggests we do it ourselves. Why not? Let's arrange it. Recruit a friend each and meet next Sunday.
We're sitting in the sun with cups of tea. The potato chips are finished and I lick my finger to pick up tiny crumbs. Now we are four. We read our pieces - poetry and prose. When I read to the others my heart pounds faster and my face turns red. As I finish I gasp for breath. We all go through this torture to select two pieces each. All funny. We don't want to take ourselves too seriously: we're more Marx brothers than Bloomsbury.
Even so, all our pieces are dark. Tinted from grey to Indian ink black. Laughter with bleeding gums. I write of heat waves and death, Jono spears the Salvation Army, Gail meets the devil and Andrea terrorises Bangkok. Quite perverse for such a nice group of people, who enjoy a spot of Sunday tea and a cup cake or two.
Our meetings continue, with tea and cake and crackers and cheese and whatever we please. For a while we consider abandoning our book to start an epicure club.
I begin designing it. I have visions of golden illumination, hand-crafted paper and embossed binding. I come down to earth with a black and white thud, within the confines of our photocopy budget. I do what I can, it's not the Book of Kells: my words will have to win hearts sans make-up.
I ring the National Library for our ISBN number: my heart skips to hear the beeps from Canberra. I write the number in my diary and on a piece of paper I keep in my wallet and carry with me everywhere. I consider having it tattooed upon my forehead: I am very excited.
Andrea books the back room of the Espy. We have a place and a date for the launch, and begin rehearsing for our reading. It's Sunday again, we feel silly standing in my living room behind a high backed chair, pretending it's a podium. But we all do it, one by one. I'm trying not to fidget, not to slur my words or dribble and not to read too quickly: this is much harder than it sounds.
Gail offers to cater for our function. This will be the War and Peace of book launches. Invitations are sent and posters placed in fashionable cafes and boutiques. We even organise a door prize.
On the day of the launch I experience Camus-esque nausea. How utterly literary, I think to myself between stops to the toilet. On the tram on my way home from work, I sit flushed and anxious, eyes glazed, dangerous: no one sits near me. I think I exude the madness of genius or is it just madness, pure and simple?
I arrive home just before the others turn up and we take turns in the bathroom. We anoint our bodies, we shine, we glow, we're scarred stiff. All in one car we leave, with food platters on our laps and books in the boot.
At the venue, the microphone is checked and four chairs placed on stage. We've decided to all sit together up there - united in terror. The books are put on display with a sign saying Special Book Launch Price $4. My friend Anne arrives early to man the selling stall.
I'm onto my third vodka before the first guest arrives. I feel inspired enough to sign an autograph. Soon the room is full of people holding drinks and buying books. I'm elated. I'm making amusing remarks, greeting friends, mingling with rapturous abandon: I'm drunk.
From out of nowhere Jono says Ten minutes to show time. I go to the Ladies. I feel ill. Gail and Andrea are also there. We check our lipstick. I breath heavily. My head is spinning.
We're on stage now, Gail's voice is a blur, so are the faces in the crowd. I try not to focus: this is quite easy. Suddenly I'm clapping and it's Jono's turn and then more clapping and Andrea steps away from me. I feel alone, I open my book and quietly clear my throat. I knock back the rest of my vodka number ?
I'm reading now, but I'm not really reading, I'm on autopilot. Every few seconds I look up at my audience and then back down to my book. My eyes are like car window wipers set on intermediate. A friend catches my eye and smiles, but I'm not distracted. She's soon wiped away. My short piece seems to last a lifetime. People are laughing and clapping. I thank them and sit down. It's over!
I'm floating. Never have I felt so light. I step offstage to rejoin my friends or are they fans? Autograph signing now seems like a God given right. I scrawl flirtatious salutations to attractive men and am persuaded to leave a lipstick imprint or two. It's all gone to my head. The vodka is the least intoxicating element of the evening. I'm high on attention. People buy me drinks I don't need and I'm congratulated on my reading. I'm told I appeared calm. I make a mental note to consider a career on the stage.
The crowd dies away and we count our money. We've sold over a hundred books and are halfway to breaking even financially. Spiritually we have made an enormous profit. My heart sings all the way home. I'm in love.