It never really occurred to me where the word “fan” came from. The word has been part of my vocabulary forever and is one of those words I’ve never thought too much on the origins of. That was until we watched the Dr Who episode last week, the one from the first series with Christopher Eccelston where he and Rose meet Charles Dickens. Dr Who comments “I’m you’re number one fan,” and Dickens looks at him as if he has two heads and asks “Fan?”
Fan is an abbreviation/derivative of fanatic (though others will argue is comes from baseball terminology “fancy”). Of course – why had I never thought of it like that – fanatic. I guess in our world of fanatics and fundamentalists a fanatic has come to mean something a little more sinister than an avid follower.
Semantics aside, I am a huge fan of author Nick Earls who is one of the writers appearing at the Byron Bay Writers Festival this weekend – my one solo holiday a year which I pass off as professional development. Nick is a Brisbane writer who I first came across in 2002 when I got a deal on his book Perfect Skin and an omnibus by Ben Elton. While I really enjoyed Elton’s work, I’ve never sought out another of his books. Nick on the other hand … I have five of his books sitting in my book case.
Reading Perfect Skin on the public transport became a public humilation hazard for me. On one trip from Altona station into Flinders Street I caught myself, not just laughing out loud (to the bemusement and horror of other commuters) but howling out loud, tears running down my cheeks. I remember reading one of the passages about Flagg to Dave when we were first together. I’ve always wanted to know if Flagg really happened to someone – because no one’s imagination is that warped.
Through Perfect Skin I got my first taste of what Brisbane might really be like. So when we moved here a few years later part of me felt like I knew Brisbane. In 2007, on the way to singing group I drove down Coronation Drive and saw Toowong Village for the first time. “Oh that’s where Jon and Ash did their shopping” was my first thought – even though Jon and Ash are fictional characters who’ve never been in Toowong Village – much less caught in a traffic jam on Coro Drive! Or needed to pay attention so as to go the correct way at the insection there. But Nick made them real enough that I could think they do shop there.
It is from Nick’s books that I’ve learnt to appreciate and not cringe from celebrating location in my writing – the location in this instance Brisbane. His writing has challenged me to ask myself – how can I include the beautiful, vibrant city I am lucky enough to live in, in my stories, in unique ways. I’m no longer shy to pull out the obscure and the well known landmarks. I pay attention as I move through this city – always observant.
I set my NaNo manuscript in a futurist Brisbane last year – with part of the narrative twist hinging on the perfume of the Jacaranda trees and my MCs phobia of them. I also wrote Graceville (and am still rewriting it) – firstly as a generic short story then as a story embedded here in the suburbs of Brisbane.
Earlier this year I read ZigZag Street – Nick’s first adult novel. I used to part my car a block up from ZigZag Street in Red Hill when I had my hair cut to Rokstar – which was just up the road from where my dear friend Anna and her family used to live. My soul sister has a painting of Zig Zag street in her home so it has always been something of a Brisbane Talisman in my cultural psyche. While I was reading Zig Zag street my writing friend Edwina rang to arrange our first writing group for the year. I mentioned what I was reading and she laughed. “Oh the house in that, that’s where my sister Tash lived. She’s a friend of Nick’s.” She went on to ask if I had got to the chopping bit in the kitchen – which I hadn’t. “He got that from Tash.”
I honestly thought second hand stories about Edwina’s sister was the closest I was ever going to get to ever meeting Nick.
Not one to publicly pontificate myself at the feet of someone I admire – I had been chatting to my friend Catherine over the weekend about my Byron Bay pact to have Nick Earls sign a copy of his latest novel The True Story of Butterfish. I’ve never done that before. Never thought to get an author to sign a book or anything like that (though I did once contemplate having The Chaser sign anything which may have been handy to carry their signatures but couldn’t be stuffed standing in line to do so at the Tivoli after the Annual launch in 2007) But every Byron festival has to have it’s tiny challenge for me (one day I will fess up to what I did last year!)
This week in my Write Anything column I discuss mentoring in writing. In the wonderful sandbox which Dale has created for the end of our posts I wrote:
Jodi Cleghorn will be chanting “I am open to receive” as she prepares for her yearly pilgrimage to the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival this week. Also “I will string together a sensible sentence when I meet Nick Earls.”
When I went in after dinner there was one comment on my article – from Nick Earls himself.
“Okay, now you’ve got me waiting for that sensible sentence. No pressure though.”
Well bowl me over with a feather!! No pressure. It is not every day your favourite author makes comment on the writing blog you are a regular writer – infront of all your peers so to speak. So now I can’t back out. At least I hope Nicke read my article and can see I am able to string together a sensible written sentence if my verbal skills defeat me at Byron!
So tomorrow I will be taking myself off to Borders to buy my copy of The True Story of Butterfish for Nick to sign. And maybe after all these years, if I can string together a sensible sentence I will be able to ask him about Flagg the cat (though that may not be so sensible) or at least say thanks for the influence he has had on my writing and the many hours of howl out loud laughter he’s brought to my life (and to others unlucky enough to be in my vicinity at those times)
Never underestimate your power for manifest what you truly want in life!