Though it was only four years ago, I felt unmistakably like a very small child in the presence of a very big grown up. It wasn't because she was patronising. In fact, she was far from it -- more like the embodiment of Emma Thompson's character in Stranger than Fiction, with all the best authorial characteristics but with more femininity, less neuroticism, and no chain smoking. Her voice -- clipped and clear with a gentle British accent -- only added to the impression. Here was a real author with real experience. Compared to her, I was most certainly a child.
Although it was ostensibly an author's panel wherein we -- the small knot of students -- would ask questions and she -- the teacher -- would share from her experience, she didn't get to say much. One of the other women kept bringing the discussion back to her "mermaid novel", leaving the author little space to talk. During a break, the author leaned over and whispered to me conspiratorially, "It would have been fun if it was just us two."
When the evening was coming to a close and coffee was being served, I found myself in the coffee queue near the author and we got chatting. She asked about my life and I told her about our crazy gypsy ways and the time spent in some of Australia's most unique places. When we got to talking about words, I confessed that my lack of writerly education and my own naivete sometimes held my back.
"Don't let it," she said seriously. "I believe that the craft of writing can be taught. You can learn to write. But you cannot learn to be a writer; some people are and some simply are not. To be a writer requires something else entirely, something that makes you different from others. You need a unique backstory." She looked at me closely, and I had the undeniable feeling that I was standing at a turning point in my own coming-of-age story. "I can see that you have it," she said. "In your experience, you have everything you need."
Perhaps, here in the retelling, what the author said sounds merely motivational, something to cheer along a hopeful girl. But in that moment, nothing felt further from the truth. Her words were a blessing. Her words were a benediction. And when I remember them, they give me courage.
Jessica -- but I'm jealous of how golden your peanut butter bars turned out! Mine look too pale :(
Meaghan -- I KNOW RIGHT?
Rebecca Simon -- absolutely!! They are totally an excellent alternative for Reese's Pieces.
Unanonymous -- do you basically just have a stash of these in your fridge at all times? Yum!
Asea -- this pathetically teeny image is a slice tray. :)
Carla and Alastair -- the peanut butter bar love continues around Australia! Hee :)
Brooke -- totally working on the technology to do just that. ;)
Samantha R -- I've been wondering if Milk Coffee biscuits are similar to graham crackers? You'll have to come to Australia to find out...
Amanda -- you DEFINITELY need to make these :D