Sunday, October 2, 2011

In which I get to pretend like I'm semi-famous, with dubious results:

I think I've mentioned before that my local council library system might be the best in the world. The libraries themselves are top notch; my favourite even has its own cafe window. Iced coffee + reading = winning. But what continues to impress me is the ongoing dedication to developing emerging artists within the local community. In particular, I've been privileged to benefit from the Authors in Action program, a series of author talks, worshops, and events facilitated by the Redland Libraries for the purpose of educating and developing local readers and writers by exposing them to great stories, great teachers, and great opportunities.

One of these opportunities is the Redlitzer Award for 2011, a writing contest for prose work of any genre up to 3000 words. I was honoured to be one of ten finalists chosen by the judges, authors Louise Cusack and Anita Bell, and got to spend a day with the other nine authors and nine runners-up as we discussed the craft of writing and learnt from published writers under the facilitation of Arthurian fiction writer MK Hume. The day provided a brilliant opportunity to meet other local writers as well as to workshop our short stories with guidance from those who have been there and done it all before.

Last night was the Redlitzer Gala event, the launch of the 2011 anthology and announcement of the editor's choice for best short piece of the ten finalists. The event was beautifully hosted by the Victoria Point library, with balloons, champagne, and canapes among the bookshelves. Of course, I did not consume said treats since inevitably at such events I am always either a) talking too much, or b) too nervous to risk holding actual food and drinks in my actual hands. Yes, last night I was both.

The Redland Shire mayor, Melva Hobson, opened the evening by commending the anthology as well as the council's dedication to bringing the work of emerging local artists into the light of day. Guest speaker journalist Frances Whiting discussed the ways in which writing has impacted her life, showing us both the poignant and the hilarious sides of writing a personal column for the public to read. Her stories were so good I (almost) wanted to ditch fiction and focus my attention on journalism instead.

Everyone was thrilled when Beverley Asmus (in the picture above, book-signing like a pro) won the editor's choice award for her story, Sticks and Stones, and Jo McHenry received an encouragement award for The Swallows of Wellington Point. Then we all got our hands on a copy of the anthology -- yay! However, in the balance of weights and measures that is life on this crazy planet, there was a price to pay for the joy of seeing work in print, and this came in the form of a) getting pictures taken, and b) pretending to be a breezy, established author. I'm beaming and confident when I'm just a face in the crowd, but the minute any form of spotlight swings even remotely in my direction -- even if it's just a Mini Maglite -- I become strangely non-human.

Of course, with regards to the picture-taking, the Socially Awkward Penguin in me immediately came waddling to the fore. I stood there frozen while the photographer arranged the anthology authors to her pleasing, and by the time we were in an adequate formation, I'd been smiling so long I'd actually forgotten how to.
What do I do with my cheeks?
My lips! My lips! I can't feel them!
Why are my teeth getting in the road?
I guess when the paper comes out I will see the full force of my multiple facial seizures. Until then, I'm going to pretend that didn't happen.

Then someone got the brilliant idea to set up a signing table for the authors to sign copies of the anthology. Soon there was a production line set up with a long white table, nine chairs, and a row of fresh black Sharpies ("Just like for real authors!") and we sat there while people brought us their copies to sign. It felt so very much like playing at being Real Authors that I kept laughing and thinking, This is silly! I'm not a Real Author! Then, when the lovely journalist Frances Whiting pushed her copy towards me to sign, the ridiculousness of it overflowed out loud: "This is so stupid! You should be signing things!"

When I thought all that awkwardness was over, I went to say goodbye to one of the authors whose workshops have taught me so much and really given my writing education a big shove in the right direction. She had some encouraging words to say which really meant a lot. In response, I turned into a malfunctioning robot and could only make repetitive gushing sounds which probably sounded something like THANK YOU OH THANKS YOU HAVE TAUGHT ME SO MUCH I AM NOT WORTHY I WILL KEEP TRYING THANK YOU IS MY FACE SHINY. But even malfunctioning robots such as myself have hearts, and those words found their way there -- so thank you.

Perhaps all this is to teach me that with every small gift comes some measure of awkward pain. And should I someday have figured out enough of life and of words to be a Real Author, and I am seventy-five years old and signing copies of My Very Own Books in a Borders store somewhere (because in my dream world there will still be Borders stores and we'll still be reading paper books when I'm seventy-five), and I seem confident and gracious and I actually have a nice signature -- and should you be an introverted youngster still learning and hoping and wondering if your writing dreams will come true, and should you go home and Google my name and somehow come across this blog post (because of course Google will still be around in 2055), then know this, my friend: that graciousness and confidence you see in the seventy-five-year-old me? I'm probably faking it. Inside is a malfunctioning robot just busting to get out.

Imma go practice my signature now.

* * * * *


Laura Elizabeth -- you and me and our mums and IRA!!!!!!


  1. You are the cutest!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love everything about this post. You perfectly encapsulate in words how it feels to be awkward. You are very good at hiding it so I'm sure the photo will turn out fine :)

    Congrats to you!!! Hope your signature practice is going great- it's going to come in handy one day!!!

  2. Famous you! I loved your write up! "OH THANK YOU IS MY FACE SHINY" hahaha, oh Danielle. :)

  3. Love this post Dee! So glad that you get to mix with other authors and share inspiration and ideas and all that great stuff. Keep writing and practicing your signature because you're awesome!

  4. How fantastic! You are officially published and have signed copies of your work out there now!

    Sometimes I wonder if there's anyone out there who doesn't feel awkward. I bet you every other writer at that event was feeling exactly as you were.

    P.S. Please do share a scan of the newspaper article when it's published. I'm sure you will look utterly fantastic. :)

  5. Almost the best post yet. Made me laugh out loud multiple times. Your descriptions are just hilarious, Danielle. It was fun being able to "live" these moments with you, even if it was from a slightly warped, biased and not-all-true world view. :) You are so wonderful! Exciting times ahead. xx

  6. This post made me laugh :D Excited for you!

  7. I LOVE this! I'm sitting here laughing and commiserating.;-D
    Congratulations to you, and I can't wait to get a signed copy of a real Danielle Cary book.

  8. Oh Danielle, you made me laugh! And be all happy for you. And wish there was a picture of YOU signing books.

  9. How fantastically cool and amazingly awesome!!! I'm proud of you even if you think you're awkward and a robot ;)

    I hope we still have paper books and Borders when you're 75 too.

  10. An incisive telling of what was a very special event for you.

    Some of us do definitely write better than we speak, not simply with the words we choose but also in consideration of our general composure when standing before an audience. (Of any size;-)

    It is OK! The important thing is that you are using your gift; writing, listening, revising, re-working: This is the real work of any author.

    To be among the finalists is a great achievment. Congratulations and keep at it!

  11. This silly concept of "real writer" that frustrates and hinders and inspires us . . . . on my saner days I don't think it is much more than a ploy to keep us focused on the wrong things: what we THINK we should be writing, how we WISH we did better, how our gift isn't as good or sincere or important (or eloquent) as someone else's. My friend Danielle for example. :) On my not-so-good days it drives me up a wall!
    Truth is, dear heart, that writers are not divided into the two classes of "real" or "wanna-be's": words are one of your gifts from God - therefore as long as you are using it you are A Real Writer. :D
    So its just a case of "published" or "un-published". And from what I hear you're closer to "published" than I am. Way to go girl!
    PS you know that bit about faking gracious confidence? I'm pretty sure that's what I do through most of my lessons - so it stands to reason that I'll do the same thing for any 'real-author' instances I'm given. :)

  12. I rather think you are a real author. And I like shiny faces! So? :)

    It sounds like a lovely event and I'm glad you got to be a part! I'm going to be looking for those books when I'm not quite 75, so I can read them and by then, hopefully I'll have had a chance to watch you sign your name instead of just read it post-written. :)


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