People are generous. My author talk at ‘Clunes on Sunday’ was chaired by a woman who had inherited her farm from her mother, who had inherited it from her own mother. She told me that mine was the first book she’d read in twenty years and that she’d enjoyed it very much. She also said – and I think this is the nicest compliment I’ve ever received about my writing – that it read like it was written by someone from the country.*
People are kind. Elizabeth Macarthur’s descendant, John Macarthur-Stanham, and his wife Edwina, live at Camden Park, in one of the houses built by Elizabeth’s husband. That’s them in the photo, on either side of yours truly. Edwina read the book, and enjoyed it. They both came to my author talk at the Camden Historical Society. They’ve invited me to sell copies of the book at the Camden Park Open Weekend, in September.
People are extraordinarily kind. The Secretary of the Camden Historical Society drove 70kms into Sydney, to pick me up from my friend’s house at Redfern and then drive me 70 kms back out to Camden. After I’d done my talk, at nine in the evening, she drove me back to Redfern, before returning home again.
People are surprising. At a writers’ festival, I lurked near the book seller’s table and watched gleefully as a young man picked up my book and looked at it with interest. But he didn’t buy it. No matter, I thought, not my demographic. Later, however, he came to my talk and asked interesting questions. After the talk, he bought my book and lined up to have it signed. And no, he wasn’t buying it for his mum. I was able to tell him how happy I’d been, to see him looking at my book. He was happy too.
People are lovely – part one. A friend I hadn’t seen for years unexpectedly came to one of my talks. He’d spent the last seven weeks in Italy and had only flown home the day before. We had the nicest lunch, catching up.
People are lovely – part two. A friend I hadn’t seen for a while came to my book launch. He had flown in from Dubai that morning, was only in town for a week or so, but he made time to come and celebrate with me.
People are lovely – part three. Friends I hadn’t seen for a while flew to Melbourne from Perth and Sydney and Canberra, just to attend my book launch, before flying home again.
People are interesting. Three people turned up to one of my talks, including a gorgeous man in his eighties who kept dozing off. That was one of my favourite talks, because the people were just so fascinating (yes, including the dozing man, who subsequently told me about his life on the stage).
People correspond. Helen Garner heard me on the radio, and immediately sent me an email of congratulations. I still exchange friendly emails with the women I met at Elizabeth’s birthplace, in Devon. And strangers send me beautiful, heart-shifting notes to tell me how much they enjoyed the book.
People are thoughtful. Fabulous gifts I’ve received for doing a talk. Afternoon tea. A scented candle. A goody bag containing: a linen tea towel; a little mirror for my handbag; a coffee mug; notebooks; cloths for cleaning reading glasses; and badges. A book, signed by the author, about Camden’s local history. A certificate of appreciation. Lovely note cards. A bookshop gift voucher (and an apology that more people didn’t show up – but there had been more than three, so I was happy).
People ask interesting questions. About washing sheep. About why Elizabeth never returned to England. About shearing sheep. About how someone like me, without an academic background, came to write a book so deeply grounded in research. About breeding sheep. About Elizabeth’s impact on colonial history. And about her impact on Australian sheep. People really are interested in the sheep.
* I’ve only lived in the country for the last four or so years. Before that, it was deepest, darkest suburbia all the way.