Geraldine seems to me very much like a book, with a delicate, exquisitely designed cover that gives way to soul and spirit. She reads with care, and gives feedback as one might guide a child's hand toward a rail. At all times, seeing her is a joy, and there's no joy quite so exquisite when she greets first Plooker, and then Butters, as they make their way into the hallowed honey-lights of Beaufort Street Books.
I thought Les was going to be an old dude for sure. And maybe he is. I mean, he's wise and sometimes grumpy, and he drinks beer, which are major old man ticks. And yet, when I think of Les, I see a younger man, perhaps a teen, who learned how to fight, not on the streets, but for his dreams. As a friend, he's always there when you need him. As a reader, he's honest, fearless in telling you what could and can be better. My book, if it's any good, owes the coherence of the final third to his unequalled grasp of story mechanics.
Pretty good for an old, grumpy bastard.
So Kyra writes incredible short stories; they're like maps of countries that you've not yet visited. She writes of history and melancholy. Like Geraldine, she is subtle, humble, and so spots things you might otherwise miss. She's super shy too, the quietest voice, and a light laugh I associate with days, nights on Lygon Street, working our way through the cakes display at Brunettis.
She's now somewhere in Europe, very definitely Australia's loss. I went to primary school with her, and she looks almost the same, even today. It's something about the way she thinks, considers things before she talks. No broken bones, or bruises here, just feather-thoughts from one of the smartest, most delightfully-bookish people I know.
At the risk of having everyone wanting her to read their books, I'll tell you a secret. When Brooke read my book, she a) wrote in pencil, and b) drew love hearts in the margins besides the bits she liked. That lightness of touch is the type of thing that might one day become a Brooke-ism; that extra special care, that gentle touch and LOVE (all-caps) that makes her ‘her,' and makes others want to be near her.
So, I was reading at this thing in St Kilda in 2009; it's called Dog's Bar Storytelling. There's this woman, as I walk outside, she's literally out of a Joyce Carol Oates novel, or a Tame Impala clip. She has long, brown hair, eyes wild, a floral dress, and a voice that's both deeply Australian and yet with the gentlest tremble.
I thought, ‘I’d better call the cops,’ but then she introduces herself, says, "I’m Bel, you chose a story of mine for the next issue of page seventeen, 'get smart'," and I said, ‘Oh, it’s great to meet you.’ Years later she would read my book, You Belong Here, and say, ‘I hated Emily,’ and thus unwittingly start the hardest but most rewarding part of my revisions.
Bel has had a tough 2017. We've talked despite it, as I know that when she's ready and healed, she'll fly forth with fierce, searing words, the fire of loss and longing, not because I said it would be so but because she's born to do this, writing raw, unforgettable tales of worlds, wounds and wonder.
Melanie is the kind of doctor that makes you wish you had an ailment so you could see her. She’s the kind of author that makes you wish you had a seat built into your back window, a block of Whittaker’s chocolate and a freshly made coffee, just so you could sit back, feel warm and take in such carefully crafted fiction.
Her feedback was all the more special in the generosity in which it was given. When I asked her to read and reflect on YBH, she was delighted. I was excited, delighted, and honoured, and I think, in some weird way we made each other’s day.
It's no news that Mel can write. What's lesser known is just how well she walks in the world. How willing she is (for example) to tend to a person who's fainted at a book launch. I mean, if that happened. At Readings Carlton. Just under a year and a half ago.
Because she’s Mel: a doctor, author, practitioner of great care in how she helps and shapes her world.