Last week I went to a couple of public events connected with the Association for the Study of Australian Literature conference at the University of New England. Iconic Australian writer Helen Garner was a special guest. I spoke to her after a lecture on Judith Wright, and gave her a copy of A Hospital Bed at Home. As homage, really. I love her writing, especially The Spare Room.
The next day, I went along to the other public ASAL event, Helen Garner in conversation with literary critic Susan Lever. When I arrived for the pre-talk refreshments, Anne Pender from UNE was chatting to Susan Lever, and she introduced us. Susan’s first words to me were, “Oh, are you the Janene who gave Helen a book? She’s been telling me all about it; she’s been reading it all day!”
When I spoke to Helen before her talk my head was spinning so much that I can’t even remember exactly what her compliments were. She said something about the clarity and directness of my writing, and the way the emotion was handled. I suggested that she’d had a strong influence on my style and she laughed and said, “That might be why I like it!”
Anyway, this week I plucked up the courage to contact her through her publisher and ask if she would consider giving me a quote for the cover. I thought it quite likely that she would refuse as she must be asked so often. But she emailed it to me within a couple of hours of receiving the request. Actually, I have two – what she sent would fit on a back cover, but I was keen to have it on the front, so she allowed me to trim it.
So the front cover now says: “An articulate, practical account of the work of love in the face of death.” – HELEN GARNER
The longer version that has gone online is:
“A quietly articulate, intensely practical account of the work of love in the face of death: a guide for the timid and a challenge for the confident.” – HELEN GARNER (Author of The Spare Room)