Today was special because it was the first Women of Letters event that Sean came to. And he loved it. And he drove. Which makes him special. But yes. We were back at the Regal Ballroom in Northcote and Elyse and her mate Chelsea joined us, and we were up in a cosy corner of the room with drinks and vegetarian pastries, sitting back waiting to be assaulted with feels. And by Jove, we were.
The radiant Emilie Zoey Baker was MC-ing today because Michaela McGuire is still overseas, but Marieke Hardy was taking tickets at the door and I tried not to look like a complete loser and trip over my own feet or stop breathing or something when I saw her, but SUCCESS. I behaved, more or less, like a functioning adult. The theme today was ‘A letter to the missing puzzle piece’. I freaking love these themes.
First up, was the hilarious Jane Kennedy, who shared a couple of letters written by her twelve-year-old self and her twelve-year-old bestie, back when they were – you guessed it – twelve. We laughed heartily at the mentions of familiar but nostalgic television shows and footy gossip, but the best part was when Jane then read a letter from her twelve-year-old self if she had been twelve in 2013. The text-speak littered through the letter was apt, but the best part was when she compared the dinner Mum was making that night – slow-cooked Moroccan lamb with quinoa and kale, as opposed to the corned beef in the original letter.
Singer Jess Cornelius was next, writing to her sister, who was ‘missing’ from her adolescent memories. This was a far more sombre letter – you could hear a pin drop while Jess was recounting the troubles with her mother and her sickness, but it was laced with the sort of tender humour that makes these letters and these speakers so damned relatable and moving. I found Jess’s letter really interesting – living in separate countries has not damaged their sisterly relationship, but it painted a less idyllic picture of the relationship between sisters which I have never been privy to. In my experience with friends who have sisters, I have seen a wide range of ‘closeness’, and Jess spoke about this with a refreshing frankness.
Rose Chong, costume-woman-extraordinaire was next, and in her softly-spoken British accent, she wrote to her father, who had disapproved of her coupling up with a Chinese man, but who had gradually come to accept and respect her partner. The focus of Rose’s story was her court case, after she had accidentally illegally acquired 25 kangaroo skins for costuming needs. However, the court charged her with possession of kangaroos, not just their skins, and she was therefore let off with a light slap on the wrist and the promise not to kill anything for the next six months, which she managed just fine.
Bindi Cole, an artist with a life full of extreme experiences, wrote to her future child. She told us of the pain that her and her husband had endured with years of trying for a baby, and the devastation of their miscarriage. She also spoke of her faith in God, and how this was helping her through it, and the comfort of prayer. Those of you who know me personally will know how much this resonated with me (the faith part, not the trying to get pregnant part). She wrote with beautiful optimism to this baby, explaining about how she couldn’t wait to meet it. Everyone was feeling a bit teary and wobbly once she finished her letter, and then she revealed that she had started the letter on Monday, finished it on Wednesday and on Thursday had found out she was pregnant. The Regal Ballroom exploded in cheers.
Finally, there was Kerry Greenwood, author of many, many books including the Phryne Fisher series. She lives with a real-life wizard, which is pretty freaking amazing, but she wrote to her missing ability with numbers. For an accomplished woman who has done a whole heap of amazing things in her life, the one element that brings her to her knees is numbers, and she recounted with great wit and sass everything she had trouble with (measurements, cooking etc) and how she got around it. She was a delight to listen to – particularly descriptive and humorous, perhaps because of her knack for writing novels? Anyway, she was a perfect way to finish the line-up.
During the break, Marieke Hardy came to our table to offer us stamps for the letters we were writing and I extremely red-facedly asked her to sign my notebook, and she did so, incredibly obligingly. Sean and I somehow ended up having a detailed discussion with her about crying during the letters and how make-up tends to run. Marieke was worried one of her false eyelashes would slide down onto her top lip like a particularly dashing moustache. I sort of laughed and stared at her, trying to come to terms with the fact I was having a conversation with her. Sean made up for my complete inadequacy with his easy chatter. Yep. It was sort of the best day ever.
Emilie Zoey Baker finished up with the questions for the guests and they were wonderful and funny and insightful and perfect. I left feeling more inspired than ever. The next Women of Letters cannot come quickly enough.