Last Monday I was invited to a meeting of the Best Kind Book Club. I walked. It took half an hour. On the walk I thought about how being an author means people read your book secretly, when you are not looking. I am still not used to this. I would like to be there, just to make sure everything is going okay. Or I would like to know when you are reading my book so I can send warm thoughts to my characters, who are performing. Also, I would like to see the set you are using. The food. What kind of airplanes.
But this is impractical. Readers read books behind authors’ backs. I know that.
Except! Sometimes readers will invite you behind the scenes. Sometimes they will show you the set.
Last Monday night, I, the author of Come, Thou Tortoise, walked into the Best Kind Book Club meeting and lo! Real-life oranges in castles, “Piety” pie, licorice allsorts, a toy mouse, a windup tortoise, model airplanes (Lufthansa and DHL – not Qantas – profound apologies), a Jell-O orange castle with a flag on top, homemade chocolate tortoises. Kelp!
I batted my eyelashes. So these are the hands my book has been in – the best hands, the best kind of hands. I cupped an orange in a castle in my palm. I had never seen a real one, didn’t know they existed, or could exist. I had just made them up.
The Best Kind Book Club welcomed me back into the book I thought I had lost and fed me Tortoise food and shared their sets and told me about the performances they had seen in their minds – each one different – and we laughed about some funny things that had happened in those performances.
When the time came to go, they wouldn’t let me walk. They gave me a drive. They sent me home with parts of the set, including an orange in a castle. I put the castle on my counter. I marveled at it. I took pictures. I thought: this is the best gift I’ve been given, ever. I can’t eat it. Yes, I can. Imagine eating something you imagined. Imagine.