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by Joanne Fedler

Books are like elephants – they take two years to gestate. Thankfully, when a book comes out, there’s no physical expulsion of anything resembling a small pachyderm from any part of my body, but I assure you, there’s pain involved.

First there’s the agony of exposure – what’s been swirling in my heart and on the page on my computer screen is now publicly visible – and now fair game for reviews, both kind and unkind, generally by people who have never written books themselves. And despite my undeniable exhibitionist tendencies, I really do have moments of internal terror that what I’ve written, rewritten and rewritten (about 5000 times or so) is such crap I have no right to inflict on any poor reader.

Then there’s the anti-climax. Because despite what many unpublished writers believe, having a book published doesn’t change your life in any significant way – no-one arrives on your doorstep to do your daily laundry, offer to wipe up the cat vomit or to cook your meals. Apart from the occasional radio interview or – if you’re lucky, forty-second TV gig, life goes on in all its ordinariness. And these days the fate of authors hangs in the balance. While a digital, paper-less world is a high-five for the rainforests and ebook consumers, it really really sucks for authors whose royalties and advances are shrinking as the price of books does. So unless we sell a gazillion ebooks or the publishing model changes radically, we may all have to reinvent ourselves – which is one reason I’ve recently started guitar lessons (despite my weak gammy middle finger on my left hand from an accident I had as a child involving a glass bottle).

The accomplishment of actually finishing a book comes with a few moments of giddy thrill, not unlike the way one might look at a child one has just birthed and think, ‘Isn’t that just the most beautiful baby ever born?’ For me, the pinnacle of this pleasure is seeing the cover for the first time. But in the case of The Reunion, even this joy was marred by the frankly insulting reality that there are NO images of women in our forties ‘out there.’ As if we’re too ghastly to be seen. It’s enough to get one into a feminist huff, which I’d work myself up into if I wasn’t too tired. My publisher searched for ages and ages to find an appropriate image. We found girls, young women, skinny things, beautiful perfect womenfolk advertisers use to sell tampons and cotton nighties. I was beginning to take it personally. Finally, my publisher personally arranged a photo shoot with some of her friends to produce this gorgeous cover, which you’ve got to admit is beyond the call of duty. That’s love.

The Reunion takes place over a weekend where four of the original women from Secret Mothers’ Business get together in an old house in the country, together with a few new friends including a career woman who has no kids. Eating, drinking and talking lead to hard-core revelations, bitchy comments insights and mistakes, as each one grapples with what it means to be a good mother and daughter, a good friend and good person. Though loosely based on a weekend I had with a few girlfriends in the Kangaroo Valley last year, the characters are all fictionalized and any resemblance to any real person is entirely coincidental.

There will be a modest launch in Sydney of the Australian edition of The Reunion on Thursday 10 May, 2012, at Allen & Unwin’s offices, 83 Alexander Street, Crows Nest on their rooftop terrace at 6.30pm to which you – and anyone you can drag out on a Thursday night – are invited to share a glass of wine. Please RSVP tojoanne@joannefedler.com or SMS LAUNCH + number of people to 0403 922094. The Reunion will also be published in South Africa sometime in 2012, and in Germany and Czechoslovakia in 2013.

Meanwhile, in the past six months, while The Reunion has been in production, I’ve been reading and writing about sex and love for a book I’m co-authoring on intimacy with Graeme Friedman for Random House. In my next newsletter I’ll share some of the more interesting facts and insights I’ve stumbled across. What’s clear is that we could all be having more action in the second and fourth chakras (the sweet spots between the legs and behind the ribs). It’s got me thinking that if the universe of publishing and book selling comes to a shuddering halt, perhaps I’ll become a sex therapist … or, if the guitar-thing works out, a troubadour. Or a strumming sex-healing minstrel? I’m just thinking out loud….

The Tuscany writing trip is now fully booked and soon I’ll be off with a group of lovely women to write and walk the Tuscan hills. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m more excited about this than is considered ‘cool’ for a woman of my age. I’m aiming to offer many more of these writing getaways so if there’s a whisper in your heart about a writing adventure like this (whether to Italy, Bali, New Zealand, India) please contact Marika from Women’s Own Adventure on 1300 883 475 or atmarika@womensownadventure.com.au and let her know.

Finally, the guitar is NOT a midlife crisis, I assure you. And if it is, it’s a victimless obsession though my family exposed to my chord practice and ardent vocal renditions of ‘Hallelujah’ might disagree. What it’s really about is that I’m tuning out of my lifelong belief that I can’t play a musical instrument because I’m so wounded, weak and unpowerful in the left-hand department (I really do have perfect-hand-envy of anyone with two strong hands). For sure it’s not going to be easy to get my fingers working. And I might not make it. But what if I do? It’s an edge I can grow from – through this very thing I think I can’t do. And I’m buzzing, just in the trying.

See you at the launch? I’ll be signing books and dispensing hugs,

Joanne

 

Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.


Joanne Fedler
About Joanne Fedler
Joanne Fedler is the author of nine books in genres from literary and commercial fiction to self-help to narrative nonfiction and memoir. Some have been international bestsellers. Her books have sold over 600,000 copies worldwide and been translated into several languages. Growing up in South Africa under apartheid, Joanne spent years as an advocate working to end violence against women. Today she is a popular speaker, writing mentor, and writing retreat leader; every year she takes a group of women to Fiji, Bali, or Tuscany to write their stories. This book is the culmination of 10 years of writing and teaching others to do the same.

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