Friday, 24 July 2015

Edit #27

Leaping the abyss into publishing my first book, update in an occasional series
by Siv Parker

A few months back...

Apart from the pain in both eyes unique to checking the edits, the other more pressing demand of getting my first book together was the essential conversation with the family.

"What do you mean, ‘we’re not in it’", they’d asked as we sat - aunties, uncles and cousins - passing heavily laden platters of food around the large round table.

For people who didn’t know much about writing a book, they had a clear idea what should be in mine. Them. They expected to be in it.

I checked the temperature of a party pie, "It’s about blackfellas…and stuff. I didn't want to put anyone on the spot", before putting the whole thing in my mouth.

"We’re blackfellas." Three kinds of cold meats and potato salad was being generously divvied up.

Another made the correction in carefully enunciated syllables, "We are fam-il-y."

They had me there. "Yes, but it’s not really any one person’s story.  And there's stuff in might, put you on the spot."

"Well, are you in it?" accompanied by a careful picking through the salad bowl on the hunt for onion rings and cucumber sliced fancy on the slant.

Was I ever. "Well yes but that’s because my name is on the cover…."  My levity hung limp, a scrap of meat on the line with no fish on the bite.

"When you said you were writing…"

Everyone paused in the Mexican wave of flickering facial expressions and exaggerated eye movements to follow the lead of the most senior at the table, and contribute to the account of what had gotten us to this point.

"When you said….it was about home, well…."


"We just …."

"Assumed", which in my cousin’s country drawl sounded more like ‘exhumed’

"Yes, we exh-u-med….the family would be in it."

Another cousin went in for a zinger, his new boyfriend listening intently to his introduction into family business.

"Is Aunty Evelyn in it?"

Well, I might have been drifting around for a few years but I hadn’t gone mad. "Yeah."  Of course Aunty Evelyn is in it.  Aunty Evelyn is 85 years old. Who wouldn’t include Aunty Evelyn?

"Well then…"

"When do we get to see it?"  All eyes on me as they chewed and ruminated.

If it was anyone else, I’d have told them if you want to see yourself, your ideas, your life, your blackness, in your voice, then you need to write your own book.  I've shed more than a few skins to get my version onto the page.

I threw a dummy pass.  "It’s coming…I’ve been busy working on a TV script."  Oh no.  My response was tossed aside like a well sucked chicken bone.

"Are we in THAT…?"

I took a gulp from my water bottle to wash my explanation down, "Well, it’s about a country town….and the people in it.  I wanted to write about the old ways and growing up on country while some of us can still remember."

A hush descended on the table. A drumstick with a bite taken out of it all but crash landed on a mound of potato salad.  Kids had been running around and climbing on furniture but they sensed something was up. They gathered to hang off the back of occupied chairs and fish for handfuls of food, even though they’d all eaten, but who would waste an under the radar top-up?

After some negotiation because it was not happening any other way – and it was a wake after all - I agreed to 'Edit number 27' of my manuscript, and to insert references to Aunties M, Y and D.

The deal was sealed when my cousin turned to look into the eyes of Young Boy, big and wide above a piece of chicken as big as his face, and said, ‘you better eat all that’.



  1. "For people who didn’t know much about writing a book, they had a clear idea what should be in mine. " I lol'd hard at that. Ah ... the never-ending negotiations. Too funny.

    Good read Siv!

  2. Thanks Leesa. :D Trying to capture the never-ending negotiations ... even when I am told, 'just write what you want to write' is never as simple as that, is it? hhaha

  3. my family are the complete opposite- we better not be in it!!! reckon my aunties

  4. There are a lot of expectations placed on Aboriginal writers. The best advice I've received is 'back yourself'. It is always the better writing. As soon as it dips its head to please someone, it spoils the work. I cant even sympathise with them anymore, although I know the pressure and attraction of an easier life. But I have been writing for a while, resilience comes from using your own voice.