“It shows that we are capable of writing sophisticatedly about love as Australian writers. ”
– Donna Ward, publisher, Inkerman & Blunt
It’s a typical Fremantle evening and The Orient Hotel in Fremantle is slowly filling up. I have ducked into New Edition on the corner early on in the evening to get my copy of Australian Love Stories and I carry this and a few other literary treasures into the back room where everything is set up for the launch, sorry, celebration of this anthology.
Doe eyed, in a deep maroon fit and flare dress, a woman approaches me and I realise that this is none other than Danielle McGee, one of four West Australian writers to be included in the anthology.
“I need your picture,” I tell her and she obliges while I find out that she is finishing off an Honours in Creative Writing at the University of WA and that Susan Midalia, a former lecturer of hers, is also one of the four West Australian writers.
Later on, perusing the book under the blankets, I find that ‘Gen Y Love’, Danielle McGee’s offering is my favourite. It has a twist you don’t realise till halfway through and there is a hopeful ending and it’s about falling in love in ’90s Fremantle and not quite really knowing that you have.
“All the girls at school were obsessed with The Spice Girls. Ryan and I dutifully graffitied any posters, photographs or notebooks they foolishly left on their desks.Baby got a moustache. Posh got a monobrow. Ginger got a bad case of acne. Ryan and I got detention.” – from ‘Gen Y Love’, Australian Love Stories, Danielle McGee
Will Yeoman pops up. Books editor of the West Australian, he has shown up early to chair the panel for the evening and as guests trickle in and start crowding out the space, the other authors pop up.
The buzz in the crowd is such that they are all rather excited and I realise that there are a lot of writers here – those aspiring and those established, all eager to find out more and get their hands on a copy. Already books are being passed around and signatures scribbled down.
The stories themselves are varied. There are stories about what could have been, about childhood crushes fondly remembered, about how love grows over time, about the concept of lying to keep love alive, about how one needs to work hard to keep one kind of love alive when another moves into your space, about how one can love but also still need to let go, to move on.
The stories will tug at your heartstrings though not all will be loved by any one reader – some will make you sad, depressed, frustrated, commiserating with the protagonist. Others will make you giggle and still more will astound you and make you contemplate the lengths that people will go to for love or even the concept of what it means.
“I remembered the great fat tongue and the giant udders and telling him I loved him as he sprawled on the sofa with his blast of a poem. And so I wrapped my arms around him and mooed again, loudly, playfully, stupidly, to stop myself from washing him with tears. ”
– from ‘A Blast of a Poem’, Australian Love Stories, Susan Midalia.
During the panel discussion Sally-Ann Jones asks us: “Isn’t all writing about the emotions, about exploring that?”
It is apt – the characters in the stories feel real enough that after the end, you want to know more. Did X ever get over Y? Did what we assumed happened, actually happen? Did A end up in a better situation? Did B and C ever get together? Did F save the relationship?
445 stories were submitted and Cate Kennedy stuck in Vanavatu with cyclonic winds and supposedly a lot of gin, read and edited her way through all of them to pick 29 for final publication. One would commiserate except that it sounded rather more enticing than a hardship.
If anything, the collection reminds us why we need love in our lives. How even if we do not discuss it, it takes up center stage in our lives and drives our decisions and choices.
The panel discussion was livetweeted and the feed is below. But in the meantime grab a copy of the anthology. It is always lovely to fall in love with something new and be it one story or the entire collection, you won’t be disappointed or heartbroken.
Publisher: Inkerman & Blunt
Genre: Short fiction
Retail Price: $29.95
Here’s the livetweet feed of the panel discussion held at The Orient Hotel in Fremantle on Wednesday 19 November 2014. The panel consisted of Susan Midalia, Danielle McGee, Natasha Lester and Sally-Ann Jones, all authors included in the anthology and Will Yeoman, books editor of The West Australian