Sunday, June 24, 2012

Women (and children) of Letters...



Old-fashioned letters are rare these days, with much personal communication replaced by 140-character tweets, facebook status updates, and text messages that massacre standard English with acronyms and emoticons. So, it was a delightful start to the past week for me, being able to write a letter and then to my surprise, in unrelated circumstances, receive one.

Last Sunday I was part of the nationally famed fundraising event known as Women of Letters, curated and presented by the lovely Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire.

I took to the stage at the Red Rattler in Marrickville with a fabulous group of Australian women all working in the media. That’s us above, from left to right (back row): Annabel Crabbe, Leigh Sales, Charlotte Dawson, Tracey Spicer, (front row) Lucy Carter, Michaela McGuire and Jennifer Byrnes.  (Pic by Tarsha Hosking)

We were all asked to pen a letter ‘To the moment all the lights came on...’ and collectively the responses included  addresses to  misogynists, step-fathers, girls we could’ve been kinder to at school and my own, a personal note ‘To Dear Academia’ and our intimate relationship over the years. The afternoon was rich with emotions; we empathised, sympathised, we laughed and sometimes felt guilty.  Such is the power of a personal letter, penned to someone or something that has impacted on our life in some way.

A shout-out to the audience who hammed it up with us. I do believe as a performer, that sometimes I am only as good as the audience. So, if I was good on the day it was because I was feeding off a room full of positive energy.

During a short Q&A as part of the event, I mentioned the joy I experience when I receive letters from school kids who have read my novels (usually its Who Am I? The diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937) or after I have visited their classrooms. Sometimes the letters are handwritten, sometimes they are elaborately designed on the computer with colourful backgrounds and fancy text. Either way, I pay kudos to students and their teachers for taking the time to engage in the art form of letter writing, and giving something back to the authors they are studying.

Apropos of that, on Monday morning I toddled off to the post office and found a wonderful letter from the Year 5/6 students of Mirani State School in QLD. A few weeks back I Skyped into their class to talk about books and writing, and they grilled me with questions developed after reading Who Am I? and trawling through my website. I loved the time I spent yarning with them - and we laughed, A LOT. They were impressed with my ‘shiny jewellery collection’ and many commented on it in their letter to me. They also suggested I 'talk a lot and fast' and one student even questioned whether I was breathing when I was 'talking so fast and a lot'. Fair call!

Along with their beautiful letter full of reflections came a fabulous collection of photos of the students in different poses – included doing ‘The Scream’. As an added bonus I received a beautiful headband in the school colours, handmade by student Janine Marshall. And they were all packaged up in a trademark Mirani & Co blue box (see pic below). Who needs Tiffany’s? (Well I do, but not this week!)

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