I’ve never played in a sporting grand final. It might be that I wasn’t picked for the team. It could be that I made myself unavailable for team sports in the later years of high school to avoid not getting picked. Or perhaps I was picked for the team, but my inability to throw a netball with any particular aim or distance, or catch said netball when it was pelted at me, meant that my team never actually made it to a final.
In the last week or two, my social media feeds have been filled with photos of teams of players holding up their index fingers, photos of trophies and cups and medals around necks and Best on Grounds.
Last month our feeds were full of primary school kids dressed as their favourite book characters. Since I don’t have any grand final efforts to write about, I’ll have to take us back to Book Week.
Because for some kids (this includes mine), Book Week is their time to shine. They’re reading and loving it, and along with schools and public libraries across the country, they get one day a year to have fun, to bring books to life and to celebrate all things literary, including Australian authors and illustrators.
Books have the power to improve vocabulary, imagination, knowledge and connection. If we all read stories of difference and what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes, the world could be a different place. But if not, a book can allow us to escape into other worlds.
And so books should be celebrated.
I know that for some parents, Book Week is a pain in the neck. But in our house, the buildup and excitement is equivalent to Christmas.
Here is a play showing how the last two Book Weeks have unfolded in our house.
Mid August 2018. It is two weeks before Book Week. MAEVE is unwrapping a new Panda onesie and is showing ME.
MAEVE (excited) Do we have any books about pandas?
ME No. But you could write one.
MAEVE (looks up) Are you allowed to do that?
ME (face lights up with pride) Yes, and it would be awesome if you wrote a book about pandas and took it to Book Week.
MAEVE (looks at the onesie, then at me) You think you’re a writer – you should write it.
I write the book. The printed copy miraculously arrives in time for Book Week. It is hard to tell who is more pleased – MAEVE or ME.
Elsie looks at the book longingly.
ELSIE Can you write me a book too?
ME Of course!
September 2018. I am kissing ELSIE goodnight.
ELSIE Can my book be about a character called Professor von Evil? He’s this character I made up. He wants to make a potion to become immortal. And he lives in a cave behind a waterfall.
ME Wow, that sounds cool. What does he look like?
We continue talking about Professor von Evil. Elsie tells me all about him. I google him to see if she got the idea from somewhere other than her imagination. She hasn’t.
October 2018. I am kissing ELSIE goodnight.
ELSIE Have you written my book yet? I thought up something else about Professor von Evil.
ME Oh no, I haven’t yet. What did you come up with?
ELSIE He has a pet chameleon that rides in the pocket of his lab coat. And you know that he has blue-green horns, wings and a tail, don’t you? And a scar on his cheek.
ME Yes, awesome. I’ll get onto it.
November 2018. ELSIE gets off the school bus.
ELSIE Have you written my book yet?
ME Not yet, sweetie. I’ve been stacking hay all day.
ELSIE When do you think you’ll be able to write it?
ME I’ve been thinking about it. And I’m really looking forward to writing it. It’s just hard now that we’re cutting hay. How about we do it in January? In the holidays.
February 2019. The book is still not written. I promise to have it done by ELSIE’S birthday.
July 2019. ELSIE’S birthday.
ME Book Week is next month. I promise I’ll have it done and you can dress up as Professor von Evil.
August 2019. ELSIE comes home from school.
ME Guess what? I started your book today!
ELSIE (probably should scream ‘Hallelujah’, but instead drops school bag) Oh cool! Can I read it?
ME It’s only the first chapter. But yes, have a read and tell me what you think. And tell me what should happen next. We really need to get this thing done.
And that’s the way it went. I had the brief. Even a 5yo asking ‘What should I draw?” likes a brief to help out with blank page paralysis. I also had the deadline(s).
And Elsie waited patiently through my broken promises.
It was only once I’d started, pulling just one brick out of the dam wall, the water and the words started to flow.
ELSIE is reading a draft of one of the final chapters. She reaches for her toasted sandwich, takes a bite, and returns it to the plate. Her eyes never leave the computer screen.
ELSIE (starts to smile) I love it!
ME (makes a mental note to remember this scene and the look on her face forever) I’m glad! Now, we’re nearly done. What are you thinking happens at the end?
ELSIE (suggests an idea) Actually, no, that should probably happen in the second book.
The character of Professor von Evil was Elsie’s idea and she devised the plot. So she’s the author. And I was super proud to be her writer.
And off Elsie went to Book Week, dressed as her favourite book character.
Writing this book with Elsie and writing the book for Maeve are two of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
Thank you, Elsie and Maeve, for allowing me to write your stories.