My face in the first photo is an accurate representation of how last night felt in my speck of the universe, when HarperCollins brought 15 book-loving women together in Brisbane to meet over The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. It’s also the moment we were sitting overlooking the the river, sharing food and wine and stories, when fireworks started exploding from the Story Bridge, for a reason no one knew.
The evening was rich with laughter and kindness; I couldn’t have dreamed to have been with more generous-of-spirit and empowering humans for my first ever author event in my home state. To have the chance as an author to meet booksellers from various bookshops I’ve visited all my adult life was a kind of internal, beautiful hysteria that defies words. When the wonderful Fiona Stager (owner of Brisbane’s beloved Avid Reader where I used to go when I was 20 and in need of hope and wonder) took a photo of us together with my novel and posted it with her caption, I was waiting for someone to leap out and scream at me, Punk’d, or, to turn into a pumpkin. Later, home to my hotel at the witching hour when I noticed the lobby was blanketed in flower paintings. And front and centre in my room?! A painting of flowers in a vase - with the name of one my main characters on it. I sat watching the light reflections from my room play on the glass against the reflections of fairy lights on the bridge and river, and had no skin left to pinch. And, the name of the street my hotel ran off? Oh, just Alice Street.
It’s taken me all day to get my head together to write this post, such is my bewildered joy. Thank you so much, you queens, for coming along to support Alice Hart, and me. And thank you wildflowers, for ever-cheering me on. Friday fireworks for everyone, on me.
G’day Brisbane! Here for a first in my life: my first author event on home turf. Beside myself to reunite with my publisher Catherine (3rd city together in 10 days!), and to meet booksellers (rockstars) from local bookshops (utopias). For now, a moment of peace with an old jacaranda friend. Memories of wagging school or uni to come up to Brisbane to drink good coffee and visit favourite book nooks, fawning over the shelves and aching for the book I hadn’t written to be one of them. 15/20/25/30 year old me wouldn’t just be bloody proud; she’d be downright flabbergasted. I can’t help but feel pretty smug about being cool in her eyes, but most of all humbled with gratitude for her shoulders, on which I stand.
Here we go, wildflowers.
It's official: THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART will be published in SLOVAKIA 2018, by Vydavateľstvo Fortuna Libri.
Neither my bewilderment, joy, or gratitude wane. If anything, all are ever-expanding. And as my family keeps remarking to each other, we're feeling feelings we (ironically) don't have words for.
I've recently found great delight reading about Slovakian women writers and artists.
In Words Without Borders, an online magazine for international literature, I discovered this gem (http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/…/contemporary-womens-wr…) on contemporary Slovakian women writers, which includes links to excerpts and short stories, one such being Sea Anemone by Uršuľa Kovalyk:
The previously unpublished short story “Sea Anemone” (“Sasanka,” 2013) is a fine example of the feminist writing of Uršuľa Kovalyk (b. 1969), whose surreal plotting and imagery often celebrates female sexuality. A trained social worker as well as a playwright, Kovalyk is the artistic director of Theatre With No Home, based in the Slovak capital Bratislava, which works with homeless and disabled actors. Her work includes several collections of short stories and two novels, Žena zo sekáča [The second-hand woman, 2008] and The Equestrienne [Krasojazdkyňa, 2013], which was shortlisted for the 2014 Anasoft Litera, Slovakia's top literary prize, and awarded the 2014 Biblioteka Prize.
Link to Sea Anemone: http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article/sea-anemone…
Viera Bombová (born 1932) is a 'forgotten' Slovak illustrator, who studied graphic design and illustration with Vincent Hloznik in the 50s. She won awards at the "Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava" in 1967 and 1969, and is considered a master of the dreamlike Slovak book illustrations of the 60s and 70s. For more information: http://50watts.com/Forgotten-Illustrator-Viera-Bombova
Thank you, thank you, for sharing in this with me.
Even when life is the best it’s ever been, old traumas, anxieties, fears still muscle their way in. Of course.
Yesterday morning, when my stomach was in knots before my first coffee, I knew I had work to do. I had the day off, alone.
First thing I did was ask for help; anxiety and fear often manifest for me as feeling cripplingly unsafe, so I rang my bestie, an unfailing safety hotline.
We talked, laughed at ourselves, swore at our humanness, ruminated over how important it is not to take our thoughts too seriously, and reflected on hard-fought lessons we’ve learned together.
After we hung up the sense of unsafety had eased, but I still had to bear the company of my own thoughts. So I did one thing at a time, responding to instinct.
Wanted a crown nothing could topple = made one of my hair. Crown needed jewels = added butterflies. Took a bath with the window open = listened to the wind in the wattle trees. Meditated, and stayed with the discomfort and frustration of noticing how wildly scattered my mind was = after 25 minutes of practising mindfulness and some self-compassion, the anguished thoughts started to settle. Took a gratitude walk with my squad; noticed flowers, leaves, trees, and felt the wind on our skin and fur. Cut some lavender and bougainvillea for my Ikebana ring, a wearable vase sent to me as a surprise from one of my dearest friends. Made a turmeric, lemon juice and honey tea = drinkable sunshine.
Later, went for a run on the treadmill and listened to the rain on the shed’s tin roof = e.n.d.o.r.p.h.i.n.s. Made a frittata. Hugged my mum. Put on favourite pjs.
By bedtime, anxiety and fear had released their fangs, and I had a bit more practice at self-care, and a bit more wisdom about how to deal with such beastly emotions. I stayed with myself through their attack, but maybe even more meaningful than that, I didn’t tear myself apart for feeling them, for being a perfectly imperfect human. We spend our whole lives in our minds, as the saying goes; it’s up to us to do whatever we can to make it as kind as possible in there.
If you’re struggling today, please ask for help, and/or please give yourself compassion. You are not alone.
In which I:
* got the hang of Cabcharge;
* finally met my incredible editor in person, after working intensely together on my manuscript for the last six months via only emails and phone calls, and clung to her in gratitude until the moment to let go had passed and it possibly got awkward;
* reunited with the eighth wonder of the world, my publicist;
* also had the thrill of meeting in person (oh for the love of coming home!) some of the astonishing powerhouse women at HarperCollins, who I am in awe of.
* was upgraded to a queen room on the 17th floor of my hotel (this has never happened, and my reaction was appropriately understated);
* sat on my first author panel in humbling, incredible writerly company;
* spoke words that were terrifying, powerful, and freeing; managed not to sob, or lose bodily function;
* met wonderful, passionate Sydney book-lovers, disguised as wonderful, passionate booksellers and retail book-buyers;
* did my first ever author interview with a warm and sensitive journalist, for an insanely exciting publication, AND managed to not dribble, fall down, or have any I-carried-a-watermelon moments;
* had the delight of meeting in person my design team responsible for producing so stunningly Edith Rewa's sublime artwork on my cover, and fell in love with them in approximately three minutes: we connected over shared reverence for Melanie Griffiths’ hair in Working Girl, and Ponyboy. True love forever;
* wrapped up the blur of my time in Sydney perfectly in conversation with my magic-maker, Catherine Milne, at the HarperCollins sales summit. Did not manage to quell the rising sob this time, but scurried off stage before there could be any threat of drowning the beautifully-responsive HC sales reps in a biblical flood.
Time now at home for rest with my beloved parentals, dogs, and sunshine, to finally vanquish jet lag, sleep, sit in the Queensland breeze, and reflect on these few ridiculous, life-changing days. Thank you so much for sharing in them with me, wildflowers.
Following Literary Bites last week, featuring Robyn Cadwallader, Luke Slattery, Dervla McTiernan and me, HarperCollins have shared a chapter sampler from all four of our novels.
Which I’m totally cool and breezy about.
If you’d like to meet Alice Hart, chapter one is available via clicking the image below.
* used Cabcharge for the first time, but couldn't quite get my head around it - asked the driver twice was he SURE I didn't have to actually give him money?!;
* walked into the lobby of Hotel Lindrum to find it covered in vases of fresh waratahs, the first I've ever seen in real life, and was totally unfazed;
* lost the ability to speak when Scott, the brilliantly-bearded hotel concierge organised with the kitchen to present me with a surprise desert plate after dinner, because they'd asked me why I was visiting;
* reunited with my magic-maker, publisher Catherine Milne, and we honked/snorted, clutched each other/the next STUNNING proof copy of Lost Flowers;
* finally met my mini-tour sister-in-arms in person, the wonderful Dervla McTiernan, who's unputdownable debut crime novel, The Rúin, set in Galway, Ireland, is coming in March 2018;
* fell in love with the city, anew;
* got down to business and went to my first ever 'Author'/book event: a dinner with a dozen Melbourne booksellers and retail-book-buyers to share our love of books, and writing, and the weird ways of book-sniffers. Managed not to say 'fuck' (too much), or, 'are you sure' when these beautiful people asked me to sign proof copies of Lost Flowers;
* questioned possibly more than I ever have in 24 hours: WHAT IS LIFE.
Relieved my odds of becoming a spy are still intact after last night: when I saw my cover as a CANVAS PRINT ARTWORK I was an utter enigma.
Own your story, Brene Brown says, or it owns you.
This was streamed live last night from Literary Bites, an event HarperCollins hosts in Sydney for booksellers and retail book-buyers to meet with authors.
It was the first time I've ever spoken publicly about my book, or the process writing it, and was one of the most extraordinary nights of my life, being and speaking in such incredible writerly company, and meeting such big-hearted, passionate book-lovers in the retail industry. Robyn Cadwallader shares insights about her new novel Book of Colors, as does Luke Slattery about his, Mrs M, and Dervla McTiernan, about The Rúin, her debut crime novel set in Galway, Ireland, which I have devoured. I speak last, starting at about the 45 minute mark; I superglued my tear ducts shut prior to the event starting.
Thank you, as ever, for sharing in this with me.
It is my honour, joy, and a lifelong-dream-realised to share this, the cover of my first novel, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. With endless thanks to my dream team at HarperCollins Australia, to the sublime Edith Rewa, and to the divine Hazel Lam. And to you, wildflowers. For sharing in this crazy beautiful ride with me.
HOLLY RINGLAND grew up barefoot and wild in her mother's tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.