In the last post about my quest for self-publication, I recounted my trip to Paddington markets to find the man who had done the drawing which now hangs in my study, who I knew in my heart was the person to illustrate Mr Middleton.
It was 3.30 pm and my friend D and I had just discovered that the artist was working at the Surry Hills festival at a stall selling his prints. We dashed off to grab the next bus.
Surry Hills was aswarm with too many groovy people. I looked down at my comfortable shoes and tried to look defiantly nonchalant next to the red-booted, high-booted, platform-booted around me. D, noticing my anxious face and dwindling blood sugar, led me without further ado to the foodstalls serving Thai noodles and Japanese balls of rice. That girl knows the right thing to take me out of my worries. Soon, fed and refreshed, I was ready to seek the artist and be my charming, relaxed self.
We sauntered towards the area where the bands were playing, scanning the stalls nearby in as non-stalkerish a fashion as possible. There he was! The stall was perched on the edge of the line of wares, and was doing a roaring trade. They seemed somewhat inundated with funky young things, palming their way through the boxes of prints and treating themselves to the artist’s personal version of whimsy, just as I had done.
“Why don’t you go over?” D asked as I stood, staring from about 50 metres away.
“Oh, he looks too busy. How about we wait awhile and listen to some music, and then go over?”
D nodded, because she is an understanding saint, and we took a seat on a patch of vacant grass. A band playing plugged in electric guitars was on stage, but they weren’t obnoxiously rock, instead creating a lovely, late afternoon relaxed vibe with their slightly reggae beats. I bobbed my head obediently to the music, D genuinely enjoying it as she reclined next to me, kicking off her flip-flops. Occasionally I would look over and notice with a mix of relief and increasing anxiety that the traffic to the stall had not slowed down. What if they pack up and leave while I am sitting here, pretending to have fun? I thought. But the idea of going over and standing around awkwardly was too much for me. I stayed put.
After about 20 minutes of becoming increasing cognitive dissonance between what I actually felt and how I wanted to look like I felt, I stood up.
“I think I better go over now, before they leave.” D hopped up obligingly and came with me for moral support.
When we got to the stall, there were only two or three people looking through the pictures, and the stall-holders were indeed starting to pack up.
“Um, hello?” I mustered my introverted self into a posture of courage. “I’m Jackie. I think your brother might have called to let you know we were coming?”
“Oh yeah, Jackie.” The artist, an Australian-Vietnamese man who could have been any age between 20 and 30, held out his hand. I shook it.
“I’m Hoang, and this is my brother Hieu,” a smaller fellow with a big, friendly grin waved. I smiled back and started to relax. These guys were genuine, nice people, not too cool for a conversation. They didn’t look at my comfortable shoes once. I had a good feeling about this.
“Yeah, I’ve got a story I was wondering if you would be interested in taking a look at. I have the interest of publisher X, and I want to present them with an illustrated version to see if they will go for it. I bought one of your pictures and I really love your work. I think it would really go well with the story.”
“OK, yeah, I’ll take a look at it.” Hoang held out his hand and I handed over the masterpiece, which now looked ridiculously small, and I felt ridiculously self-important, all of a sudden, asking someone to illustrate my story, as if I had some sort of right to do that sort of thing.
“Thanks!” I said. “I mean, there is nothing certain with the publisher, but if you like the story,we’ll take it from there.”
“Yeah no worries. Yeah I was approached at another time by another lady who wrote a story, but it just wasn’t the right time, you know? But now, we’ve been thinking about doing a story, so it’s funny that you should have come up right now, you know? It’s almost like it all fits together.”
“Yes! I know what you mean!” I felt exactly the same way. “It was like that when I bought your picture, and then only a couple of weeks later this opportunity came up, and I was wondering, who can I get to illustrate this? And then I saw your picture!” I nodded vigorously, then tried to slow my neck down and calm my excitement. You’re an author, Jackie, not a crazy lady, I told myself.
“Ok cool,” Hoang said.”I’ll read the story, and then maybe we can talk about it in a week’s time?”
“OK. Maybe we can meet after your markets close next weekend?”
“Sounds good. I’ll be in touch.”
“Great! And if you have any questions about the story at all, just give me a call. My number is on the front there.” I pointed at the manuscript, which so far had only been read by me, my fiance, the editor and my friend who had given it to her. It was a funny moment, handing it over wilfully to a stranger. Almost like it was a real book, and I was a real author, and it was going to take on a life of its own, and this was the first step in it becoming something beyond my reach or control…
OK, I was over-thinking things again. D and I left them to it, me smiling and waving as we departed. I owed D a drink. It was time to go and get it. I had the whole of the next week in which to worry and wonder, but mostly, I felt pretty good, as if this was really meant to be…then of course my brow furrowed in concern. Hopefully, when he actually read the story, he would like it and not, for example, decide I was an odd-ball who was too old to believe in the power of fairy-tales.
To be continued.
To see Hoang’s work, go to www.studiooat.com.au. It’s pretty ace stuff. You won’t regret the click.