Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Tag: library (Page 2 of 4)

Becoming a Welsh language expert…

I am not an expert at anything. I am a Jack-of-all-trades kind of girl. Imagine my surprise when an elderly gentleman approached me at the library.

‘I want to learn Welsh,’ he said. ‘One of your colleagues told me you are the library’s Welsh language expert.’

Turns out the man was vision impaired and needed a course that didn’t require him to be able to read or write. I knew just the course and my ‘Welsh language expert status’ was confirmed as surely if it had been listed on my job description along with a degree in library and information studies, eligiblility for ALIA accreditation, and holding a current Victorian driver’s license.

Now, personally, I think the ability to speak Welsh should be an essential requirement for every librarian. But as they haven’t yet achieved this in Wales, I don’t have much chance in suburban Melbourne. It was a shock therefore when on a second business-as-usual afternoon another man sought me out.

‘Hello. I’m looking for Liz Corbett.’

‘Yes. That’s me. How can I help you?’

‘I heard you speak Welsh.’

Heard! Where from? I guessed another of my colleagues had supplied the information.

‘I try, but…my Welsh isn’t fluent.’

Turns Ken James was a local historian with Welsh ancestry who was doing research on Eaglehawk’s Welsh Churches (yes, the hiraeth gets to us all eventually). He had a couple of cemetery inscriptions that needed translating. Would I have a look at them? Now, as my job description does not have ‘an ability to speak Welsh’ as a condition of employment, I am not paid to translate documents. As a librarian I am supposed to direct the borrower to the languages section. But as a person with an interest in Austalian history and Welsh language, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

‘I’ll have a go,’ I said. ‘If I can’t work it out, I know people who can. Why not email me a copy?’

Here is one of the inscriptions Ken James sent to me:

Jones

Serrhog Goffodwrineth / Robert Watkin Jones/ Pantymarch / Anwl Ac Unig Fab / Watkin Jones / Pandy, Llanuwchllyn, Bala / Yr Hwn A Hunodd Yn Yr Iesu / Hydref / 10 February 1884 Yn Zomywydd Oed / “God’s Will Be Done”.


It was school holidays and being a mildly (cough) obsessive person I didn’t want to wait until Welsh classes started back again. I looked up serrhog. It wasn’t in my dictionary. Neither was gofodwrineth. However, language is all about context. I am often telling my Welsh class. Your comprehension will sometimes be situational. So, what was the context here? I looked at English language cemetery inscriptions. They generally started with something like loving remembrance. I looked up remembrance in the English side of my dictionary and came up with: coffadwriaeth, remembrance, and serchog, with means affectionate. The spelling was wrong (possibly the family had no dictionary and may not have had much education in the Welsh language – it wasn’t exactly encouraged – and maybe they were relying on English speaking mason). Anyway, the inscription should have read: Serchog goffadwriaeth. Perfect.


See, being an expert is easy. 🙂


I knew Pantymarch and Llanuwchllyn, Bala were place names. I also knew that there was no letter z in the Welsh alphabet. A little enquiry, confirmed that Robert Watkin Jones had died at the age of twenty. Therefore zomywydd oed was probably 20 blwydd oed – twenty years old – Anwl ac Unig Fab meant: dear and only son.


I paused, thinking about this family far from home who had lost their only son at twenty years of age.


So, much pain, in those few words.


My final challenge with this inscription was the phrase: Yr Hwn A Hunodd Yn Yr Iesu.


Hunodd meant ‘slept’ my dictionary told me, Iesu, I knew, meant Jesus. But why yr hwn? And why yr Iesu? Literally, it seemed to be saying ‘the this and slept in the Jesus.’ Puzzled, I went where any sensible woman in this day and age who needs to know something goes. Facebook.


Fortunately Sion Meredith Director of Cymraeg i Oedolion – Canolbarth Cymru – Welsh for Adults mid-Wales was online. That’s right – a real expert. He confirmed my earlier guesswork and told me the phrase Yr Hwn a Hunodd yn yr Iesu meant: this one slept in Christ. Nice. I sent my results back to Ken James. Imagine my pleasure when a few months later he came back to the library with a signed copy of his book: Eaglehawk’s Welsh churches. He even put my name in the acknowledgements.

 

Announcing the 2015 Reader Survey …. by M. K. Tod

Writers and readers – a symbiotic relationship. Ideas spark writers to create stories and build worlds and characters for readers’ consumption. Readers add imagination and thought along with their backgrounds and attitudes to interpret those stories, deriving meaning and enjoyment in the process. A story is incomplete without both writer and reader.


What do readers want? What constitutes a compelling story? How do men and women differ in their preferences? Where do readers find recommendations? What are their attitudes to pricing or their favourite reading blogs? These and other questions have been the subject of two previousreader surveys.

 

ANNOUNCING A 2015 READER SURVEYdesigned to solicit further input on reading habits, historical fiction preferences, favourite authors and, for the first time, favourite historical fiction. THE SURVEY WILL BE OPEN UNTIL MAY 14.

Highlights from previous surveys:

HISTORICAL FICTION IS MAINSTREAM: Less than 2% of participants said they rarely or never read historical fiction.

GENDER MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Women and men differ significantly in their reading habits and preferences and their views of historical fiction.

AGE MAKES A DIFFERENCE: Those under 30 have different preferences for genre and time period 
and have different patterns of consumption and acquisition.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS HAVING A BIG IMPACTON READING: Social media and online sites play an increasingly significant role for those choosing, purchasing, and talking about fiction.

BOOK BLOGS ARE VERY POPULAR: 1,473 participants listed one, two or three favourite blogs.

GEOGRAPHY: Responses to questions such as the use of online tools for recommendations and purchasing and preferred setting for historical fiction varied by geography.

PRICING: Sadly, readers are pushing for low prices. For example, 60% want e-books at $5.99 or less and 66% want paperbacks at $10.99 or less.

ONLINE BOOK CLUBS ARE GAINING POPULARITY: 21% belong to online clubs while 15% belong to clubs meeting in a physical location

VOLUME OF BOOKS READ MAKES A DIFFERENCE: for example, high volume readers have different expectations for book reviews, a higher interest in tracking their books, and higher usage of online tools and social media to augment their reading experience.


If you are a reader or a writer, please take the survey and share the link [https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GXRD9B7] withfriends and family and on your favourite social media. Robust participation across age groups, countries, and other demographics will make this year’s survey even more significant. Those who take the survey will be able to sign up to receive a summary report when it becomes available.


M. K. Tod

Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2105

The statistics compiled in conjunction with Australia’s Stella Prize paints a sobering picture of reviewing patterns in Australia. On average, more books by male authors are reviewed by predominantly male reviewers. Why does this concern me? I am a woman. I write. I am also a librarian. On anecdotal, whom-I-serve-at-the-desk evidence, I encounter more women, than men. These women have longer books lists. They read across a range of genres. Many belong to book groups. But let’s move away from anecdotes.

In my capacity as a Home Library Service Librarian, I select books for housebound members of our community. Of the thirty two housebound individuals serviced through our local branch, five borrowers are men. Twenty seven are women, in case your maths is as bad as mine, that’s eighty five percent. It’s my job to know what is available and to develop and in depth understanding of what my borrowers like to read. One of the ways I do this, is by reading reviews.

So, male or female, what’s the difference? A good review is a good review isn’t it?

Maybe.

Or maybe male reviewers favour books by men? Maybe there are broad gender differences in reading tastes? Maybe, more women read literary fiction than men? Maybe more read romance? Or follow crime series? Maybe, some favour books about relationships? Inner growth over action? Maybe these women want to hear what other women think about the books they are reading?

Enter the Australian Women Writers’ challenge a website established to raise the profile of Australian Women Writers. Elizabeth Lhuede, the site’s founder, realised she was guilty of gender bias in her reading choices. Lhuede read fewer books by women – particularly, Australian women. In 2102, she decided to redress this balance, contacting librarians, booksellers, publishers, book bloggers, authors, teachers and inviting them to examine their reading habits. She asked them to join her in reviewing books by Australian women. By the end of 2012, 1500+ reviews were linked to her blog. In 2103, the number had risen to 1800+ books, reviewed by over two hundred reviewers, only seventeen of whom were men. In 2104, these figures increased.

Now it’s 2015 and I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

  • I am committing to reading four books by Australian women in 2015 and reviewing at least three of them.
  • Four? That’s nothing!
  • I agree.
  • I expect to read more titles but…I have committement issues.
  • Most of these will be historical fiction titles because that’s what I like reading.
  • In addition to the four books by Australian women, I will also read four books by Honno the Welsh Women’s press
  • Why not?
  • I am going to the first ever Historical Novels Society of Australasia conference in March.
  • I’ll be living in Wales for the second half of the year.
  • I’m not saying I won’t read books by men. I mean, McCall Smith might bring out a new title.
  • But basically, I’m going to be exploring books written by women
  • And talking about them
  • So, watch this space

 

The Strays – a very Melbourne novel

Here is how I prepare for holidays – I reserve books. Books others have returned to the library, books recommended, ones I’ve shelved, read reviews about, seen clogging up the trolleys, books I’ve ignored in the pursuit of my own creative endeavours.

For the Melbourne Cup holiday I reserved The Strays by Emily Bitto. I started reading before the holiday officially started. What? You are shocked. There are no rules against pre-reading. I had just finished the latest draft of my manuscript prior to sending it off for what, I hope, will be its final assessment. My head was clear, my husband in Venice, the parish reports sorted and with Melbourne Cup falling on a Tuesday, I had no Welsh lessons to prepare for.

Some serious ‘me’ time was called for.

The Strays topped my reservation list for a number of reasons.

  • It is the author, Emily Bitto’s, debut novel. I have an interst in debut writers.
  • It is the first novel published by the newly established independant publishing house Affirm Press. Ditto, an interst in Melbourne publishers.
  • Bitto had spoken at one of Boroondara libraries’ emerging author talks and I’d been sorry to miss the event.
  • A colleague told me the story stayed with her long after she’d turned its final pages.

The Strays centres around the, fictitious, Trentham family who are at the forefront the 1930’s Melbourne modern art movement. Into their seemingly carefree lives comes Lily, a lonely only child from a conservative middle class family. As Lily’s friendship with the Trentham’s second daughter, Eva, unfolds from early primary school and into adolescence she is a witness to the loyalties, conflicts and inner contradictions of this carelessly neglectful family and the group artists they support. Despite being on the edge of the group, Lily finds herself drawn into the household’s divisions the ultimate the cost of which are borne by the Trentham’s younger daughters.

This is a literary novel. From its opening page, the reader is treated to some stunning prose.

I remember that day, after it all fell apart, when Eva came to me through the misty garden so that her red coat bled into view from white to pale rose to scarlet…

Bitto’s portrait of the Melbourne modern art movement is vivid, her historical detail authentic and engaging, the final unfolding of events, shocking, though well foreshadowed. At times, I felt the friendship between Lily and Eva was subsumed by the vibrant communtiy In which they lived – the ‘first chaste marriage’ between them only sketchily drawn. In retrospect, I think this was deliberate. Lily is as much infatuated by the enigmatic Tentham’s as she is by their daughter Eva. As a non-daughter or, perhaps due to of her inherent conservatism, she escapes the worst of the story’s consequences. Yet her life is driven by the rifts they caused. The novel is not without hope, however. We see it in Lily’s hindsight reflections, her journey towards reconciliation and in the relationship she has with her daughter. Her life decisions are not happily-ever-after but somehow appropriate. They are bound to resonate with all who have yearned for a more than ordinary life.

 

Library lessons – a true story

It was ordinary Friday afternoon in the library service, mum’s and kids, retired couples, a full complement of the regular unfortunates, me busy reserving items, trouble shooting computer problems, helping people download eBooks, finding the latest travel guide. As I said, business as usual, until the lady with the green shopping bag sat down at my desk.

There was nothing distinct about the woman, on first impressions. She was lower middle-aged, had honey brown hair, wore gold hoop earrings. She could have been any one of the women that access our library service. Though, I noticed, as she sat down, that she was a little dishevelled, breathless. As if approaching the information desk had taken some effort.

‘I’ve got these books.’

I nodded, summoning a smile, wondering, if I was about to assess another pile of not-so-useful donations.

‘I’ve had to move,’ she paused, tears welling. ‘A number of times.’

A tear spilled onto her cheek. She dashed it away with the back of her hand. Another followed. And another. She raised a hand to her face. I’m thinking someone has died. It has to be a death, surely? By now her shoulders were also quivering. With a sinking heart, I realised, I was going to have to take the donations, even if they were useless.

I waited. Not knowing how to respond. I mean, this situation wasn’t covered in library training. It wouldn’t be professional to grasp her hand. Or go round the desk and give her a hug. Infact, it would probably freak the poor woman out. Eventually, she drew a shaky breath. Upending the bag, she tipped a pile of children’s books onto my desk.

‘They’re overdue.’ She said. ‘And the fine…I can’t pay.’

A fine? Not what I expected. I’ve had people lie about library fines, make excuses, slip the books back on the shelf, the occasional flare of anger, hissed threats. But this was grief, and heartfelt, and something about it unnerved me. I searched the woman’s face. Seeing worry lines. Sorrow in her tear-glazed eyes. And something else. What was it? ‘Do you have a library card?’

‘Yes, my daughters.’ She handed it over.

I opened up her daughter’s membership record. The fines weren’t small. But I’ve seen worse. I returned the books – Hairy Maclary, Dogger, John Brown, Rose and the midnight cat, Where the wild things are, The Gruffalo, and others – a catalogue of innocence. They were all accounted for. I smiled, going into official librarian mode. ‘Let’s start by updating your address.’

‘No.’ A flicker of fear. ‘I can’t tell you where I live.’

Fear? That was the other emotion. What was going on here? I studied the membership record, looking for inspiration, knowing I should be going through the spiel about getting books back on time being the woman’s responsibility, that having a correct address was part of our process, reminding her that we’d explained all this when she signed up as her daughter’s guarantor. Guarantor? I flicked into the family details tab. Hang on a sec, woman wasn’t the guarantor. ‘There’s a man’s name on your daughter’s record.’

‘Her father.’

‘He joined her?’

‘He came, that day. Made me use his name. But we don’t see him anymore.’

Right, the woman had moved a number of times, she was scared to give me her address, her husband made her use his name. I’m starting to get a prickles-down-the-spine feeling. ‘Technically,’ I said, choosing my next words with care, ‘you are not responsible for these charges.’

‘He’d say it was my fault. I had to keep track of them.’

‘Your name isn’t on the record. Or your address. You have no legal obligation.’

Pressing her lips together, she shook her head. ‘He won’t pay. Ever.’

‘He’ll get a notice, if you leave the charges on his card. Asking him to clear them. But…that won’t be good for you, is that what you’re saying?

‘Yes.’ She said. ‘He would pursue me.’

*

I’m not going to tell you how the interview ended. That is between me, God and the library system. But, no-one – man, woman, or child – should have to live with that kind of fear. By the time the woman left the library, she wasn’t the only one fighting back tears.

 

A writer’s sick leave

You know something is wrong by eleven o’clock Tuesday morning. You are tired….so tired. Why are you so tired? You are finding it difficult to concentrate. You plough on until lunch time, after which you fall into bed. You sleep. Deep. You wake to the inner toll of an alarm bell. You don’t usually sleep in the afternoon – your head aches. You can’t face your manuscript revisions. Small decisions are beyond you. Your husband finds you huddled on the couch in your track pants.

‘What’s wrong?’ He asks.

‘I’m sick.’

‘What about tomorrow night? Should I cancel?’

‘No. I’ll be better by then.’

You open up iBooks. You have an article to write for late early December. This means you have a long To Be Read pile. You flip from writer to reader and start While Beauty Slept.

Being sick is not too bad…as long as you have a good book to read in bed.

Next day finds you feeling no better. You cancel your dinner engagement. You finish reading the first novel (yes, you read fast). You draft a list of questions. You start re-reading Bitter Greens. A mistake. It’s too good. In a fevered flash of horror you realise are wasting your time as a writer. You’ll never be that good. You take two Panadol to ease the pain.

It doesn’t help.

Fortunately, you have a library job. You are needed, like…you have to go to work tomorrow. You have two urgent housebound groups to select for. This is a bad. You generally select a couple of weeks ahead. But some weeks, despite your best efforts you find yourself working close to the wire. This is one of them.

You have to ring in sick.

A third day on the couch. You draft out your second list of questions. You read some interviews. Make notes. Send query emails. Start reading a third novel, The Hand of Fire, by a Judith Starkston. Any guesses what the article is on? You’re sick. But your mind churns. This is called a writer’s sick leave.

Friday morning, you set the alarm. It shrills. Your head pounds. But you have to work. If not, you will have to phone each volunteer and every housebound client, re-schedule the deliveries, be under even more pressure the following week.

You drag yourself out of bed. Toss down cold and flue tablets. Drink copious amounts of coffee. Front up to work, moaning and sweating. You drag yourself through the day, get the selections done. Manange to be polite and helpful on desk. You drive home in a shudder of aching muscles and tumble into bed.

***

Sick Girl – photo courtesy of Culturalweekly.com

 

 

Life in Limbo – while my novel is being assessed

So, the first fortnight was a novelty. I sent my manuscript off to readers. Wrote a review. Re-drafted a short story. Attended a Pitch Perfect session at Writers Victoria. Updated my novel's synopsis. Tried to come up with a stunning hook line. Failed. Multiple times. First drafted a query letter and then…sat twiddling my thumbs. Oh, I know, I'm supposed to write something else. Something new. And I will…next week. But I also need to wind down because I've been pushing myself pretty hard and, once I receive feedback, it's going to start over again. With this in mind, I have called the last two weeks down time.

Down time! So, what have I been up to?

Well, I've done a heap of errands – been to the optometrist and the audiologist, had the dog clipped, booked a dental appointment, taken my mum to buy a fridge, considered new heating options for the house, started making flash cards for next term's Welsh classes and…. What, cleaning, did I hear you say? No, that would involve a personality change. But, I have to say, if this silence goes on too long weird things may start happening.

In the meantime, I've been having fun. What kind of fun? Well, I'm a librarian so, let me tell you, it's been pretty wild. I've been:

  • Reading Kate Mosse's, Citadel
  • Catching up with some out-east friends
  • Having dinner with my lovely daughter
  • Browsing social media
  • Reading a heap of blogs
  • Creating a couple of new Pinterest boards
  • I also started planning our thirtieth wedding anniversary holiday.

Here's how the itinerary is looking so far:

Week one: South Wales with my cousin while Andrew flies around Europe doing the day job

Weekend one: meet our Australian, British migrant friends in North Wales

Week two: a week in London with Andrew working and me staying in his ritzy hotel (yes, I know. Someone has to do it). I'll visit family during this week and, of course, soak up the London atmosphere.

Week three: a holiday in the Cotswolds. We have booked a quaint cottage and made enquiries about bike hire. We intend to spend our time pedalling between pubs, ploughman's lunches and picturesque villages.

Week four: Andrew will head back to work while I attend a Saysomethinginwelsh bootcamp in Tresaith. During this time using the English language will be banned as a random group of Welsh learners seek to exist purely in Cymraeg. It could be a quiet week but I doubt it. Something tells me there will be heaps of silly mistakes, red faces and shared laughter.

Week five: join Andrew for a week in Paris.

Aside from this, my limbo weeks haven't been without feedback. My youngest son, an avid historical fiction reader and one of my assessors sent me a lovely text:

Hello Miss Doubtful. Just started reading your book. First observation. You can write.

Let me tell you all those months carrying him, all those hours in labour, all those nights without sleep, all that post-natal depression, all those winters dosing him up with ventolin we're cancelled out in that one tiny SMS moment.

Two other readers have also finished the manuscript and are staunchly claiming it wasn't boring. One of them, my dear friend Denis who writes fiction, teaches literature and is an all round confidence booster is going to walk me through his recommendations over the weekend. Then, it's simply a matter of finishing Citadel, reading my new book on the history of the Welsh language and…waiting for the other readers to get back to me. I can't beg. That would be unprofessional. But…I do hope it will be soon. Otherwise, I might be might be forced do something radical like Spring cleaning.

Nah, only joking. I have a short story to write and a couple of interviews to complete.

 

Post Manuscript Posting Stress Syndrome

After a spectacular crisis of confidence last Thursday and Friday which I'm now calling Post Manuscript Posting Stress Syndrome (PMPSS), I have recovered my equilibrium. But before outlining the treatment of this acute debilitating illness, let's me first identify its symptoms and causes. And please note: the condition will henceforth be known as Elizabeth Jane Corbett PMPSS syndrome. Which in the event of my abject failure as a novelist will secure my name for posterity.

Symptoms

  • Paranoid checking of email and phone (as if anyone could have read the novel in six hours)
  • Deep aching cavity in your chest that needs lashings of sticky sweet reassurance
  • Waking with ideas for revisions in the early hours of the morning
  • A combustion of shame every time you think of someone reading your manuscript
  • Self doubt to the point of wanting to recall all known copies of said work and shred them
  • Sitting in the corner hugging your teddy bear and moaning

Causes

  • General inability to face normal domestic and administrative tasks
  • Unshakeable conviction that real life is what happens on a page
  • Tendency to get lost or caught up in writing tasks for hours on end (multiple burnt saucepans as evidence)
  • Mis-management of mildly (cough) obsessive tendencies
  • Dis-inclination to act on husband's well intended suggestions that you take a break (yes, Andrew, you were right again)

Treatment

Treatments for this acute, self-inflicted psychosomatic condition vary. But during her research, Elizabeth Jane Corbett, has identified some common therapies.

  • Watch endless YouTube clips. Welsh comedians are particularly effective
  • Indulge in other obsessive interests. Translating arm-long lists of little used Welsh words has proven therapeutic. But, a word of warning, this list should never be mistaken for classroom preparation. Or inflicted on a poor unsuspecting beginners Welsh class. No matter how interesting it may seem to the PMPSS sufferer
  • Take comfort in your day job (unless, of course, you are a librarian in which case exposure to other popular works may exacerbate symptoms)
  • Read a gentle comforting novel (in a genre different to the one under consideration). Alexander McCall Smith's titles are routinely prescribed as they have the added benefit of reminding the PMPSS sufferer that life is essentially about being a decent human being not a multi-published, award-winning, best-selling author (sob)
  • Avoid reading the blogs of other successful writers until the worst of the symptoms have passed
  • Or sending hate mail to any of the above authors
  • Schedule a Dukan celebration meal with sympathetic family members
  • Try not to talk about your manuscript at said celebration meal (this is an extreme therapy and beyond the fortitude of most sufferers)
  • Do not open your manuscript to check anything even when a reader tells you they are up to page a hundred and twenty
  • Let your dog sit on your lap and stare up at you with adoration
  • Then, come Monday morning write something else – a review, some interview questions, a short story, a blog, anything to take you back to the real word of the page.
  • In no circumstances, should the suffer make a delusional attempt to clear their in-tray or get on top of their administration. This will only lead to a reoccurrence of symptoms.

Finally, if you are currently suffering from PMPSS and are having trouble moving from the Teddy bear rocking stage to the YouTube comedy stage here is a clip to get you started.

 

The dark side of creativity

You wake before six, though somewhere in your manufacturer's instructions is a note saying you are not to be roused before eight o'clock in the morning. You cycle along the rain dark glistening Tarmac of Sydney Road, feeling renegade and daring. Only to find a whole sub-set of society at large in the early hours of the morning – waiting for trams, sweeping streets, sleeping in doorways, or hurtling down the all but empty side lanes, their tail lights bouncing off the walls of the surrounding buildings.

At the library, you are greeted with the news that the fire alarm has gone off for no particular reason. Before you even open, workmen are resetting alarms, switchboards and air conditioning systems. The fire brigade calls to report a malfunction in their access card. You check emails, sign cash sheets, and unpack crates but you can't seem settle to anything.

On desk, you have three inter-library loan requests from elderly people who were trying to get their heads around the idea of national and global online book databases, the possibility that their particular request may be out of print, the notion of joining a neighbouring library service online, and the concept of an eBook being a viable alternative. Despite your best efforts, you fall under the mesmerising spell of a woman who has made it her mission to continue the practice of paper notices on community notice boards in the face of digital advancement. You field her questions, trying to explain the situation, though you know she isn't listening. You try to reassure a young girl who is fretting about an overdue notice. You wonder at the depth of her anxiety. You explain the library's policies to her brave, blind, dignified father. You realise some young people are forced to grow up before their time.

At lunch time, one of your workmates lays a slab of chocolate on the table. 'It has been a long morning,' she says. 'We deserve this.' You think probably you do deserve it but…Thursday is a protein only day. You stand as if on the brink of a precipice. The slope below looks mighty slippery. But you didn't lose fourteen kilos by being a sissy. You walk away before you can start cramming hunks of chocolate in your mouth.

On your lunch break you realise you are tired – bone deep, dead dog, thirsty creek tried. And it has nothing to do with your six o'clock start. Or your busy desk shift. You think, perhaps, it's because you've put your manuscript in the post. After the flushed, new born, skin prickling elation of yesterday, adrenaline is leaking out of you like a sieve. You drink multiple cups of coffee. Eat bucket loads of protein. Ensure you are properly hydrated.

It doesn't help

Riding home through the evening streets, you feel rhino heavy as Melbourne tram. As freshly slaughtered as a carcass. You think perhaps you should hold onto your day job at the library. That you were a fool to ever start writing. You wonder whether it is too late to take up knitting. Or felting. Whether all your writing friends are secretly laughing. You realise this is the dark side of being creative.

 

Ten things I learned in the library service

1) People don't read signs. Our reservation shelves are right near the reference desk. If I had a dollar for every time I've had to point them out I'd be a rich woman.

2) Recently returned items are always the hardest to find. Personally, I believe it is the spirit of the books in rebellion. All that freedom. All that silent communication. Now they are being put back on the shelf. Call me fanciful but I would hide too.

3) If you want good customer service you need to be a nice customer. I had one swearing and abusive borrower who used to ring up in an effort to get extra Home Library Service deliveries. I never complied. Yet, for a grateful quavery voiced old lady, I've been known to bend over backwards.

4) If you want to get out of paying a lost book fine don't say you lost the book while you were on holiday in Paris. I've never been to Paris I'm, therefore, unlikely to wave your charges on compassionate grounds.

5) It is never appropriate to discuss your ear wax with strangers (or possibly even your best friend). One elderly gentleman on realising I wore hearing aids decided I that I would sympathise with his ear wax problems, given in weekly installments. I took to hiding in the stacks when he was around.

6) You are never too old to let your tummy muscles go. One old woman in her eighty sixth year came in for a book on stomach crunches. 'I've started getting a pot belly,' she confided in a whisper. I thought, if she can do crunches, then maybe I should be working on my abs too.

7) Follow your convictions to the end. An elderly Christian Science borrower moved interstate so that she could be in a nursing home that complied with a Christian Science medical practices. I may not share her convictions but I found her faithfulness inspiring.

8) Live life in a blaze of colour. One of our borrowers was a lifelong polio sufferer used to ride to the library on an electric scooter. After a nasty accident, she became housebound. One day, I had to deliver her books. When I stepped over the threshold of her council subsidised home I could only gasp. 'Oh what a beautiful room.' It wasn't beautiful in a 'Vogue Living' sense. She'd packed that room with all manner of gaudy, glittery and garish objects. The effect was stunning, like walking into a fairy grotto. It woke the inner child in me.

9) Some parents have too much time on their hands. Do I need to say anymore?

10) Some people have difficult lives. Every time I see people talking to their phantom selves, or cleaning the library tables with their socks, or putting a cardigan over their head so that the enemy can't read their emails, I'm reminded, some people have difficult lives.

I'm glad the public library service is there for them.

 

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