May 8th 2013
Because I’ve let my weight training slip a little over the past few weeks I’m working on my laptop in my home gym – typing lines between sets of squats and dips and pull-ups – and that’s when I get the email from Fiona of Random House Australia.
You have a host of fans here. We were wondering if you’re writing a book or are interested in writing one. Would love to talk to you about it….
The whimper of excitement that escapes me is only allowable because I am alone. The way I almost vomit trying to suppress a happy-sob is, in all honesty, a little embarrassing, even though I am its only witness. The way I stumble to the gym beatbox, turn up the volume, and dance to George Michael’s ‘Too Funky’ with my thumbs hooked into the waistband of my shorts like a cowboy, with my legs kicking out from the squat position like I’m riding a horse, with my shoulders ducking down and to the left and then down and to the right, is unforgivable under any circumstances.
I start typing an email in reply that conveys the thrill I’m feeling. I have been writing constantly for over twenty-five years, through the highs and lows, despite the doubts and the doubters, in spite of the naysayers, and without reprieve. I’ve written as a stubborn, insular melodramatic teen, as a Uni student convinced of his own genius, as a nine-to-fiver with a conviction to never give in, and as a husband and father with a trail made of millions of words behind him; constantly aware of the time that’s ticking away.
I pause mid-sentence, run to the beatbox again, and swipe my way back to ‘Too Funky’, wide-eyed at the aptness of George Michael singing as I’m swooning in this news. We are both denouncers of stereotype; me as a man standing loud and proud in what has traditionally been a woman’s domain, and George Michael as a gay man playing a straight man in some of the 80s and 90s most raunchy video clips.
I type this all into the reply email to Fiona but then delete it; considering it a little too me at this early stage of our relationship, and because I am still a little embarrassed about my accidental line-dancing imitation earlier, I take a moment to think while knocking out some of my favourite and more classy dance moves – ‘The Cabbage Patch’ and ‘The Running Man’.
When I sit down to continue with the reply email I am bursting with enthusiasm.
Being hunted down mercilessly by a major publisher is the stuff of dreams – if you were a feverishly hungry lion and I was a tender wildebeest calf I would point my tasty rump in your direction and bleat for you to eat me.
My insecurities caress the delete button again and after a few deep breaths and a verbal coaching at the possibilities contained within this exchange I start typing in a more controlled manner, and a few minutes later only one line offers a glimpse of my raw and desperate eagerness:
This is probably the most thrilling email I have received to date.
June 5 2013
I’m sitting at the kitchen table and I’m feeling all abuzz, not only for the excellent meal I’ve placed in front of my family but also because I have officially been offered a book contract with Random House Australia.
After an earlier conversation with Reservoir Mum, we’ve decided to let the kids in on it.
‘Right,’ I say, as Maki throws some chicken at Archie. ‘I have something to tell the whole family…’ I glance at RM who shakes her head, aware that I have borrowed that line from the Monty Python classic, ‘The Meaning Of Life‘ and am only a breath away from telling the kids that I have to give them up for scientific experiments. ‘Right,’ I say again. ‘So, all my life I’ve dreamed of writing a book for a major publisher, and today I got the news that my dream could come true…’
‘Can I have some Ginger Beer, Dad?’ Lewis interrupts, pointing at my real beer.
‘Yes. You can have one glass,’ I say, aware that I’m role-modelling how to have a commemorative feast by insinuating that I have only had one beer, instead of four. ‘This is a celebratory dinner… a special occasion. Ginger beer for all y’all!’
As Reservoir Mum pours the older three boys a drink, Maki – frazzled by tiredness and toddler hormones – climbs on to the table, singing a kind of gibberish that is both annoyingly loud and hilarious, and parks himself in the centre of us, pulling strange faces, dancing with erratic arm movements reminiscent of epilepsy, and begins to siphon all the attention away from me.
‘Right,’ I say. ‘So, I haven’t signed the contract yet… but it’s on its way… and when it gets here…’
‘Look at him,’ RM says, touching my arms. ‘He’s hilarious!’
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘He is… very hilarious…. so… they want me to have a 100,000 word manuscript to them by December…’
‘He knows we’re watching him!’ Archie says, laughing.
Tyson, yelling with delight, starts mimicking the erratic arm movements of Maki and almost chokes on some chicken.
‘… so I’m going to have to work hard… but I think it’s going to be okay… but we – your Mum and I… and you guys… may have to do things a little differently for a while…’
‘Mum,’ Lewis says, loudly enough to be heard over the racket, pointing at Maki. ‘Did I used to do that when I was little?’
‘You were even crazier!’ RM says.
‘And so we’ll need your help sometimes,’ I say. ‘And if I get tired I’m sorry but you can tell me and…’ I stop because Maki – loving centre stage – is getting to his feet. ‘Maki, no!’ I say. ‘Sit down. It’s too dangerous.’
The angry frown he gives me as he sits back down releases another wave of laughter from the boys and when I mirror the expression back to him he crawls quickly to my side of the table and tries to swipe me. I grab his hand skilfully, pick him up, lift him over my plate, and tumble him in to my arms.
‘You crazy little critter,’ I say, tickling his belly and nuzzling into his neck. ‘Are you stealing all my attention?’
He squeals and laughs as Lewis says, ‘Dad, today at school Haitham kicked the ball on the roof.’
‘What?’ I say. ‘That’s three times in a row.’
‘Yep,’ he says. ‘Mrs Plastow says we have to kick around the corner now, where we can’t reach the roof.’
‘That’s an excellent idea,’ I say. ‘Right, who’s ready for sweets?’
1st July 2013
Note: Random House and Penguin Books have merged to become Penguin Random House and George Michael thinks that’s just Too Funky…