When the day finally came, I had a slight sense of unreality. It all seemed to have taken such long time. A good two years since Finlay Lloyd first committed to publishing a collection of my stories. Months and months of final editing, moulding stories I had imagined finished into even better shape; changing endings; deciding on the order of the stories; deciding which stories to include. To say nothing of the time each individual story had taken, up to ten years in some cases, to get from the day I first put pen to paper with the germ of an idea, to the last few weeks of literally dotting the i's and crossing the t's.
The book was in my hands, a beautiful, dark, silky feel to it, a most evocative cover photograph, and my writing, presented like a gift, substantial and real. Ready for other readers.
The launch was at the National Library, on the Canberra Writers Festival weekend. I bought a new top and new shoes, and had my hair cut. I had asked a lot of friends, but my expectations were low. Perhaps three rows of chairs in the Ferguson Room would be full, I thought. Well, there'd be more champagne to go round.
But friends came from far and wide. People came from interstate, just for the launch. People who had warmly and encouragingly followed my writing ups and downs for years were there, happy to say they always knew that this day would come. People wandered in from the Festival, because they thought my book looked interesting. All my kids, and all their kids, were there. The grandchildren sat cross legged on the floor at the front, smiling up admiringly at their Grandma. It was standing room only.
Julian Davies from Finlay Lloyd warmly introduced the book, and its, by now euphoric, author. John Clanchy did his usual entertaining and insightful commentary on the stories and the writing.
Then I got up to say my heartfelt thank you's, to make a few comments of the particularities of writing short stories, and to read.
'Oh, it's a story!' my youngest grandchild exclaimed, as I started. I read a couple of passages, from Us and Them, and The Man on the Path, and this, for me, was pretty much the best part of all. I've always loved reading aloud, and there are so few opportunities to practice this delightful skill. The pleasure was doubled by it being my own work that I was reading.
Afterwards, I sat and signed books, chatting with friends and well wishers who had ventured their $22 on their faith in my stories. Finally the champagne, the merriment, the buzz of conversation as friends connected with each other and like minds found each other. Old friends not seen for ages were embraced and welcomed, and children ran about with their cousins. Photographs were taken. A bread stick sword fight between two younger cousins was broken up. Everyone was proud and happy, and everyone - rightly - took a little credit.