BY LAUREN CHATER
Hey, you. Yes, you, the woman still wearing your pyjamas, even though it’s midday, even though the postman will soon deliver a package and you’ll have to front up wearing your ‘uniform’.
Ahem. We’ll just keep that between ourselves, OK?
So, this package.
What’s in it?
Well, there’s a letter, for starters, hidden inside an envelope. Written on the envelope is your name, scrawled in an elegant cursive script. Handwriting, almost identical to your mother’s. You used to forge sick notes so easily, remember? But we’re not here to talk about your mother.
There’s something else in the box. You weigh it in your hand, curiosity crackling in your chest. Whatever the item is, it’s wrapped in tissue so you can’t peek. You open the letter and shake it out.
Here is what the letter says:
You won’t believe me, but in a few months, you’ll be a published author. It won’t feel the way you expected it to. For starters, those dreams about fame and glory that have sustained you through the difficult process of writing those first terrible drafts will be revealed as false idols. They were important, because without them you might have given up. You might have let that story languish in a bottom drawer, as the saying goes. You might have let the expectations of others and their fear of protecting you, override your confidence. You will learn that success comes at a price. That there will be times when you’ll have to push yourself out your comfort zone, to talk to strangers at festivals or in book shops about a process which feels extremely private. You will feel exposed, as if your skin has been peeled back to expose how little you really know about the world. Each time you open your mouth on stage, you’ll feel the prickle of anxiety nestling in the base of your skull, waiting for its chance, waiting for you to freeze up or flee. You’ll talk at events which are attended by hundreds of people and then some where only six faces stare up at you, surrounded by rows of empty seats. In those moments, you’ll wonder why you did this, why you thought you wanted this so badly when the reality is much harder than you expected it to be.
There’s good news.
Your book will be read. The words that you deliberated so carefully over will be committed to the page, their power the extraordinary ability to educate and connect you to a reader in another city, another country. People will write to tell you how the book made them cry, to thank you for writing about a time in history that has received so little attention. You will meet authors who will become your mentors and friends. You’ll experience immense joy revising and clarifying your work, trying to understand your own intentions and responses. Your publisher will be your guiding star and before you’ve even finished your second book, she’ll offer you a contract for two more so you can write and live. What a gift! With this security, you’ll have time to read and learn, to educate yourself about the structure of novels and the language of connection, to research important areas of history to unearth stories nobody else has told.
Good luck, dear writer. I know the next year will be a rollercoaster, but you’ll survive and be transformed. You will find your voice.
It’s time to put the letter down and pick up the box. The tissue paper rustles. Inside the wrapping is a rectangular object. Your book. You hold it up to your nose and smell the paper. It’s real. All those years of research and interviews, of travel and conversation with Estonians who endured the war and the Soviet occupation. All those years have been worth it. You open the cover. The dedication reads: for the knitters of Estonia, wherever they are scattered. Seeing the words printed there makes your heart full. Your job is done. The book is finished. The hard work has just begun.
Lauren Chater writes historical fiction with a particular focus on women’s stories. After working in the media sector for many years, she turned her passion for reading and research into a professional pursuit. In 2014, she was the successful recipient of the Fiona McIntosh Commercial Fiction scholarship. In addition to writing fiction, she established The Well Read Cookie, a blog which celebrates her love of baking and literature. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two children. The Lace Weaver is her first novel, and she is currently working on her second, Gulliver’s Wife. See www.laurenchater.com and www.thewellreadcookie.com