On digital publishing

Three sleeps off

How do I feel? I ask. I’m in awe that something as vast and sprawling as this is finish-able, at least so it can be launched and other people will see it, and judge it, and use it. I remember stumbling along the kilometre or so of cracked suburban footpaths from my home to my then agent, carrying a weighty cardboard box that the veggies had come in, but now full of pages of the unpublishable Leaning Towards Infinity – but I was resigned to that – and looking down at those toppling piles and feeling astonished it had come to this, this cardboard box of neat pages, but also guilty, as if my finishing this vast thing had somehow stolen something from other, worthier people, something undeserved, as if there’s only so much finishing to go around, and somehow I’d stolen an untoward bit of it. But awe – I feel awe that Bob Carr has agreed to launch us, that when offered no doubt a dozen interesting things to do this coming Wednesday evening, he’s supposed to have said of Wuthering Ink – “Like it.” I know he reads – one year I was head of the fiction judging panel for the Christina Stead Award, the Premier’s Award, and was told – by whom I don’t remember, if I ever knew – to write comments for his speech on the short-listed books, which I duly did, and which he duly dismissed for he didn’t need someone else’s comments, he’d read all the books. His comments, which I listened to with great interest, were excellent, sophisticated, perceptive. He’s one of those wonderful people, a reader – and not just of non-fiction, which blokes seem to think more manly, or of blokes’ fiction, for there were many women’s books on that short list, and he’d read them regardless of gender – something that many of my male author friends would never do, would never read my books because they are “women’s books”- so they tell me that their wives like my work, and that’s ok, it has to be ok, for only women read women’s work, while we women read both men and women’s work. What are men afraid of in women’s work? that we’ll talk about life in the kitchen? There are some men who know our canvas is as big as anyone’s, and Bob Carr is one.

I’m in awe that we’re hearing things about the site like thank you and congratulations. In awe that a yearning in white hotel room five years ago has unfurled, leapt out, and transmogrified into this, in awe that I’ve lived to see it happen, when so many, maybe nearly all, yearnings of other people never get fulfilled in their lifetimes. And that all those insurmountable difficulties, those sleep wrecking, nerve-wracking, exasperating impossibilities have become this thing, a thing, a real, almost living thing with its own life and its own future, for who knows where now it will go. No doubt many bad things will be said, but so far, at the moment, good things. In awe that despite the departure of dear Libby and dear Louise – what grief-filled days those were, but how I achingly understood why they gave up – in awe that what’s become the three of us are easy with each other, that we haven’t fallen out, that we live with each others’ foibles and faults, and that we’ll celebrate together. In awe that my daughter, once sick and helpless in that hotel bed, has made our Facebook page, has helped and instructed me, the luddite who had so much to learn, while we worked through hundreds of typos, infelicities of expression and grammar and far, far worse, the multitudinous dysfunctions in that never ending but marvellous document that readers will never see but authors will know so well, the automated author form – a brilliant idea of Bem’s and Jan’s, but what a bugger to implement, at least a year’s daily grind, minute by minute – and how this daughter is still talking to me, and is bringing her friends to the launch – “See?” she’ll tell them. “I helped to make it.” And Gordon, my partner, who many times has sighed,and let’s admit it, groaned over my obsession, will be there, and still talking to me.

Now, well after midnight and the council street cleaners preparing for the day, and I’m thinking about this once-in-a-lifetime – please never let me never do such a work again – this maddening, foolish, endless odyssey, and I’m asking myself how do I feel? In awe.

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