So I wanted to tell you about my experiences at the Book Fair, which only vaguely comes under the ‘honest parenting’ banner … but thinking about it, my experiences there are probably telling of the fact that I’m trying to be the very best mother and the very best print editor I can be. Essentially I’ve got two rather unwieldy career ambitions on the go at any one time. (Not something out of the ordinary, of course. Most of the mothers I know are attempting the same.)
If I had to sum up my experiences at the huge, bewildering, magnificent Book Fair in a word, it would unfortunately enough be ‘disconnection’. I bought a trade ticket and was there on the last of the trade days, but most of the discussion that was going on then was not about how books are made (my side of the equation) but about what happens to them after that. Well, I had always suspected that would be the case; my fantasy of distributing business cards hither and thither to the exactly appropriate people was a best case scenario. Jeezus, sorry, I sound like Eeyore here.
So anyway, there was that. And it meant that I couldn’t step into any of the discussions that were taking place, because (a) they weren’t my type of discussions, professionally and (b) anyway, I’m inherently introverted and I don’t just step into discussions.
But, in a way, the disconnection I’m talking about was as positive as it could be. I was as in this space, this universe (my universe, I dare hope), this booky-ness as deep as I could be as an observer. I spotted/bumped into Bill Manhire, Elizabeth Knox, Peter Gordon, Eleanor Catton, Alan Duff, Joy Cowley. I thumbed through Gecko Press’s latest, Mr Whistler.
I unintentionally ran into the Huia team, who I often do work for, and sat through a couple of presentations in the NZ pavilion with them. I caught the end of Glen Colquhoun’s and Hinemoana Baker’s Transit of Venus stuff, which made me cry for its mere New Zealandy-ness, and then watched the multimedia presentation the NZ people presented on repeat to introduce ze Germans to our words, and I recognised and fiercely loved almost all of the words they chose. And then the next day, outside of the Book Fair in Frankfurt itself, we walked around and over quotations like those on the Wellington writers’ walk, and found a little exhibition on a contemporary NZ/Samoan artist, Francis Pesamino, and one on NZ zines. Randomly, wonderfully, in a warm little white room as the European Autumn drizzled outside, I found the words of Sarah Jane Barnett in Hue and Cry (loosely classified as a zine) and with that ping of recognition I felt like I belonged in a way I don’t often, here in my little Hungarian village.
So it was all a very validating experience, if it wasn’t transformative.
Now I can’t really decide on my point. Maybe I’m trying to convince myself not to worry about what feels like a 22-month-long plateau in my ‘real’ (?) career? It was reassuring to test my measure of myself as a NZ booky person against this purposeful large-scale display of NZ booky-ness and find comfort, familiarity, meaning … love. And being away from my own little bookworm (‘read it, Mummy? READ IT?) made me really think about which one is the ‘real’ career, of course: I think ultimately I came home with a strong sense of validation in both of them. So I’m happy.
My remaining nagging sense of dissatisfaction comes with the fact that I really wish I could have nodded eruditely at Manhire as he floated ethereally towards me on the conveyer-belt thingy (the Fair is huge, like an airport). Or that I could have reminded Glen Colquhoun that he knew my name once, when we were both frequenting Steele Roberts‘ offices – or blurt out to Elizabeth Knox how much I appreciate her blog, which always catches me demanding a close reading. I’m not in the club.
But I will be one day.