By: Holly Ringland
In the digital age books are arguably more important than ever before. They teach us how and where our lives and stories intersect with other lives and stories. Books create empathy, open our minds, and remind us we have more in common than sets us apart. They are touchstones we can read and re-read when we are lonely, confused, frightened, and disconnected. They can do what no software can. Books are, as Carl Sagan said, proof that humans can work magic. And to me writing books, wanting to be an author, is one of the very few things that has not changed throughout my life.
When I was nine years old my family and I moved from our homeland Australia to Canada, where we lived for a couple of years. One dark, wintry Vancouver day, we tropical-coast-Queenslanders all had insatiable cabin fever from being stuck indoors for days on end by the weather. Never one for giving up, Mum wrestled me and my toddler brother into our snow gear and loaded my brother’s stroller and off we went, out into the blizzard, to walk across town. Mum had said spellbinding words to me that would have made me walk anywhere in any weather: let’s go to the bookshop. She taught me to read when I was three years old, and ever since going to the bookshop was the closest I’d ever come to experiencing how I imagined it felt to find the treasure we’d read about together in fairytales. We hiked across town in the bitter cold, chattering about what new stories we might discover. I remember our arrival very cinematically: the late morning was dark with snowfall but the bookshop glowed golden. So welcoming. So full of promise. A literal light in the dark. I walked in feeling so strongly that all I ever wanted to do with my life was grow up and write books so I could somehow be a part of the magic between stories, humans, and solace that I felt in that Canadian bookshop.
In 2014 when I sat down and began handwriting the first draft of my first novel, it was beyond what I’d let myself dare to dream that my manuscript might be published in Australia, let alone anywhere else in the world. I didn’t let myself think about outcome: I just stayed close to the story and kept showing up at my desk to write it, through first draft, fifth draft, fifteenth draft. Nearly three decades after that poignant moment in the Vancouver bookshop, my childhood dream is now a reality: it is an indescribable thrill and honour to have my first novel published in Canada — a second home to me — by a publisher I revere, House of Anansi. I’ve no other word to describe it than magic.